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Translated by 

Raymond Smith, O.P., and Rod Gorton 


Published in the United States, 1969, by New City Press, © by 
Citta Nuova Editrice. Printed in Italy. All rights reserved. No part 
of this book may be reproduced in any form, except for the inclusion 
of brief quotations in a review, without permission from the publisher. 

Nihil obstat: Martinus S. Rushford, Ph.D. 
Censor Librorum 

Imprimatur: t Franciscus Ioannes Mugavero, D.D. 
Episcopus Bruklyniensis 
Bruklyni die VII Maii 1969 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 75-77-439 


Like Christ, Vatican II came to fulfill not to destroy. 
Although the retreat conferences that comprise this book 
are pre- Vatican II and from time to time quite evidendy so, 
the spiritual depth of their author rises above the changing 
mood of the world and captures to a great extent the 
fresh emphasis of the Church on various aspects of her 
infinitely rich reality. 

Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange is well known to the 
English reading audience from his books on theology and 
particularly those on the spiritual life. What is offered now 
is a retreat preached by Father Garrigou to his Dominican 
brethren. Consequently one will encounter frequent references 
to Dominican saints as well as Dominican life along with 
some of those delightful, if no doubt apocryphal, stories 
that grow in a religious family. Yet, the universality and 
oneness of the spiritual life shine forth and all Christians, 
not only religious, will find in the following pages considerable 
help from the doctrine and exhortations of this renowned 
father of those seeking greater holiness. 

One might have anticipated constant references to the 
Summa of St. Thomas but instead Father Garrigou over- 
whelmingly gives preference to holy Scripture as the source 
for his thoughts. Whenever possible we have employed the 



Jerusalem Bible translation, except in cases where Father 
Garrigou was adapting the text, paraphrasing, or where the 
change in words would obscure the points under discussion. 

A retreat is not a carefully annotated treatise. Hence, 
hyperbole is validly used and only a purist would take issue 
with some of Father Garrigou's assertions which are less 
precise than we normally expected from him. In other words, 
the genre of retreat conference is not that of the scientific 
theologian proposing or defending a thesis. 

We are deeply indebted to Father Raymond Spiazzi, 
O. P., for the availability of this posthumous work of 
Father Garrigou. In his preface to the Italian edition, Father 
Spiazzi tells how he obtained permission to publish the 

" We remember the day when one of us during recreation 
asked our dear and venerated master and confrere, the 
author of this book: ' Father Master, why don't you publish 
your spiritual exercises, which have done so much good 
for us? ' Father Garrigou-Lagrange with a look that 
revealed the profound mixture of simplicity, intelligence 
and humor of his soul answered: ' I do not think that I 
should publish them because, first of all, I still want to 
use them in my preaching.' ... In any case we obtained 
his permission for a future publication of his exercises, 
'after his death,' and that was sufficient." 

We hope that this final work from Father Garrigou 
will find acceptance with his many admirers and, perhaps, 
make him new friends. The retreat is full of optimism and 
spiritual joy, qualities so real in Father Garrigou himself 
and so desperately needed today. Father Garrigou-Lagrange 
was too existentially aware of God's role in man's salvation 


to take a grim appraisal of the world situation too literally. 
He preferred to see man's ascent to God in terms of the 
good news of Christ. The hardships of life will always be 
present no matter how much technology improves the 
physical living conditions of mankind. Only God can reach 
the heart of man. We trust that this retreat of Father 
Garrigou touches the hearts of all who read it and meditate 
upon it. He felt that all the People of God were called to 
holiness, to everlasting union with God through love. 
This message is Father Garrigou's last will and testament. 

Raymond Smith, O. P. 
St. Dominic's Priory 
Washington, D.C. 


Preface vii 

Our Theme 1 

I. The Goal: Glory and Grace ... . 3 
The Reply of the World .... 3 

The Reply of Reason 6 

The Answer of Revelation 7 

The Way to Glory 

Fundamental Identity of the Life of Grace with 

the Life of Glory 10 

The Holy Spirit in Us 12 

II. Sin 15 

The Obstacle 15 

Malice of Sin 17 

Venial Sin 22 

Consequences of Venial Sin .... 23 

Purgatory 25 

Mastery 26 

III. The Redemptive Power of Christ ... 29 
Redemptive Omnipotence 
The Personality of the Incarnate Word 
The Charity of Christ .... 
The Mystical Body 

IV. The Love of God 

The First Commandment 


Natural Love, Supernatural Love ... 42 

The Love of God for Us 44 

The Response of the Saints .... 48 

Our Response 50 

Fraternal Charity 53 

Why the Love of God Ought to Extend Also 

to Our Neighbor 54 

How to Practice Fraternal Charity ... 58 

VI. Mortification 65 

Necessity of Mortification 68 

Sublime Loftiness of the Supernatural End 71 

Ways of Mortification 74 

Effects of Mortification ... .77 

VII. Humility 81 

Humility with Respect to God .... 82 

Humility with Respect to One's Neighbor . 88 

The Levels of Humility 90 

VIII. Poverty 93 

The Religious State: State of Consecration 

that Presupposes Separation .... 93 

The Religious Value of Poverty ... 96 

IX. Chastity 105 

Separation 105 

Consecration 110 

X. Obedience 117 

Separation 120 

Consecration 126 

XI. The Cross 131 

Crosses of Sensibility 133 

Crosses of the Spirit 136 

How to Carry the Cross 141 

contents xiii 

XII. The Efficacy of Prayer 145 

Necessity of Prayer . . . . . . 145 

Mental Prayer and Mortification . . . 146 

Efficacy of Prayer 146 

The Source of the Efficacy of Prayer . . 148 

XIII. Mental Prayer 155 

What is Mental Prayer? 155 

The Various Degrees 160 

The Object 161 

How to Go about Mental Prayer . . . 162 

The Effects 165 

XIV. Perseverance in Mental Prayer . . . 167 
Necessity of This Perseverance . . . . 167 

To Trust 169 

To Allow Oneself to Be Led . . . . 176 

XV. Docility to the Holy Spirit .... 179 
The Movement of the Spirit .... 179 

That Voice 183 

To Follow the Voice of the Spirit . . . 188 

XVI. Zeal for the Glory of God and the Salvation 

of Souls 191 

The Motive 191 

The Extension 195 

How Is This Zeal to Be Exercised? . . 197 

XVII. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin . . . 201 
Why We Should Have a Great Devotion to 

the Holy Virgin 202 

How to Practice This Devotion . . . 208 

The Fruits of This Devotion . . . . 211 

XVIII. Union with God 215 

What is This Union? 215 

Means to Obtain It 219 

Conclusion 223 


At the outset of this retreat we wish to introduce the 
subject of our discussions. The fundamental theme will be 
progress in the spiritual life. The points to be developed 
are: the goal: glory and supernatural life in heaven; the 
obstacles: evil, sin and its consequences; the source: Our 
Lord and His redemptive work. Next we consider the 
spiritual growth of charity in terms of its two great 
movements: death to sin: by means of mortification, the 
practice of the three vows, and the acceptance of one's 
cross; and configuration to Christ: by means of prayer, 
docility to the Spirit of Christ, zeal for the glory of God 
and the salvation of souls, and devotion to Mary. Lastly we 
treat of union with God. 

In considering these themes may the Lord grant us 
a spirit of recollection, supernatural attention, sincerity, 
generosity and prayer. May the Holy Spirit inspire us all 
with the ardent desire for perfection, grant the author 
the faculty of treating his subject in a manner that is not 
too unworthy, and enable readers to penetrate the profound 
sense of words repeated and heard thousands of times. 
Finally, may the Holy Spirit grant us the grace of total 
self-giving in a perfect act of charity. 


The Goal: Glory and Grace 

They are the ones He chose specially 
long ago and conformed to become true 
images of His Son, so that His Son might 
be the eldest of many brothers. — Romans 
8, 29 

In order to understand what spiritual progress should 
be, we first must examine the end to which it tends. St. Paul 
expresses the idea in the text cited above, namely, a config- 
uration or conformity to the Word of God. We have often 
been reminded of this divine doctrine but it is so sublime 
that we can never pretend to understand it sufficiently. 
Consequently, if we wish to penetrate its profound meaning 
we must gradually rise above ourselves. In attempting to 
determine our ultimate goal we shall proceed by exclusion, 
setting aside the lesser things that the spirit of the world 
proposes to us, until, after the necessary ascent, we arrive 
at a true formulation of our supreme end. 

The Reply of the World 

Why were we made? The world answers: " We were 
made for enjoyment, for pleasure, the pleasure of the body, 
the senses, the imagination, the intellect, and the heart." 
Enjoyment! This is to be the end, the rule, the motive of 
our activity. Such is the principle of paganism and every 
day it is becoming more and more that of the present 



world. At times it is a temptation for Christians also, even 
for us religious. 

Evidently such an answer to the problem of life cannot 
be accepted by the unfortunate of this world who justly 
feel provoked to anger and exasperation. What sense does 
it really have for other men? This ideal or norm of life in 
reality makes man a slave of the events that procure or 
take away his pleasures; a slave of his passions and his 
very desires; a slave of jealousy and anger that rise within 
him against his own will itself; a slave of other men who 
can snatch away the miserable goods that form his happiness. 
By attempting to place himself at the center of all and to 
reduce all to himself, the man ruled by pleasure becomes 
the slave of all. He finds only disillusionment and disgust 
in the miserable, fleeting possessions that he has made his 
ultimate end. Moreover, he destroys within himself the 
very dignity of his manhood because animal-like he lives 
only for his body. With death he will lose everything and 
what is worse often he does not take into account the 
terrible punishments that await him. 

Some persons have sought to live this way even in the 
religious life. Common life became for them a torment, 
the religious observances an insupportable yoke. They 
suffered their whole life and, seeking pleasure everywhere, 
they lost their souls. 

Then the world corrects its maxim and says to us: 
" The goal of man is an ordered and well conceived quest 
for his own interests, a thing not accomplished without 
work, effort and sacrifice." To acquire for oneself a position 
in the world! Who would dare to deny that at times this 
is also a temptation for us? It happens that certain religious 
work long years to gain a position in the community and 
to attain some dignity. Everything they do is subordinated 
to such an objective. The drive is always present and it 



would end up having mastery if God did not restore these 
religious to the right road with an opportune humiliation. 

Such an attitude comes from the coldest and most arid 
egoism. Yet the egoist is not happy. He knows only his 
pleasures and personal satisfactions but has destroyed the 
more noble aspirations of the heart. Everyone avoids him 
so that his end is sad and solitary. If he thinks about 
another life, every hope seems denied him. He has lived 
only for the world and now he must leave the world. 

Not even this maxim is satisfactory and so the world 
proposes a third: the respect of one's own dignity, that is, 
fulfilling one's individual and social duties. Such is the 
Stoic reply which stems from human pride. Man is made 
in order to develop his own intellectual and moral person- 
ality. In recent years, under the influence of Modernism 
we have seen this doctrine upheld even in religious circles. 
The passive virtues of humility, obedience, and patience 
have been quite depreciated, while the active and social 
virtues that affirm personal initiative have been exalted. 

This attitude contains a misapprehension. The man who 
pretends to love the good through the love of both his own 
dignity and his personal judgment concerning the good of 
his own personality, in reality does not love the good but 
rather adores himself and believes himself to be a god. 
If he truly loved the good he would certainly love even 
more than himself and above everything else the source of 
every good and of all justice, that is, the Good that is God. 

Pride is always something hard and cold. The person 
that more or less consciously refuses to humble himself, to 
obey, to rise above himself to the love of God is not able 
to find happiness, which does not, in fact, exist in any finite 
good. Perhaps this person recklessly spends himself in 
external works both for the pleasure of spreading his ideas 
and of dominating. One day or other this life has to end 
and for those lacking charity death appears as something 



absurd that comes to destroy in an instant the moral edifice 
constructed with the efforts of a lifetime. 

The Reply of Reason 

To know and to love God. The light of reason alone 
shows us that the ultimate end of man consists in knowing 
God and loving Him above all things. If we had been 
created in a purely natural state, with an immortal soul but 
without grace, our ultimate end would be precisely that of 
knowing and loving God. However, like the great pagan 
philosophers, we would have known Him only through 
the perfections that exist in His creatures. God would have 
been for us only the first cause of the universe, the supreme 
intellect that governs creation. We would have loved Him 
as the author of nature, with a love that exists between 
inferior and superior. There would not have been any 
intimacy, only admiration, respect, gratitude, without that 
gentle and simple familiarity that is in the soul of the sons 
of God. We would have been the servants not the sons 
of God. 

Such a natural ultimate end is in itself something 
sublime, and could be pursued and possessed by all. Further- 
more, the possession of God on the part of one would 
neither impede another's possession nor generate the least 
jealousy. It consists of a knowledge that cannot produce 
satiety, in a love that cannot exhaust the heart. This natural 
knowledge of God would leave unanswered many mysteries 
concerning the manner in which the divine perfections are 
interrelated, for example, the most inexorable justice with 
the most gentle mercy. The human intellect could do nothing 
less than exclaim: " Oh! If only I could see this God, 
source of all truth and goodness! If only it were given to 
me to contemplate this flaming sun from which the life of 
creation comes, the fight of intelligence, and the energy 
of the will! " 



The Answer of Revelation 

Our true end, according to revelation, is to know God 
as He knows Himself, to see Him face to face as He sees 
Himself, directly and not through creatures. God was in 
no way obliged to grant us participation in His intimate 
life but He could do so and through pure mercy wished 
to do so. 

"We teach," says St. Paul, " what Scripture calls: 'the 
things that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, things 
beyond the mind of man, all that God has prepared for 
those who love Him ' " (I Cor. 2, 9). What the great men 
of this world and the masters of human wisdom have not 
known, " these are the very things that God has revealed 
to us through the Spirit, for the Spirit reaches the depths 
of everything, even the depths of God " (ibid. 2, 10). 
St. John writes: " And eternal life is this: to know You, 
the only true God " (17, 3), and " My dear people, we are 
already the children of God but what we are to be in the 
future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that 
when it is revealed we shall be like Him because we shall 
see Him as He really is " (I John 3, 2). " For me," explains 
the Psalmist, " the reward of virtue is to see your face, and, 
on waking, to gaze my fill on your likeness " (17, 15). 

This face to face vision of God is infinitely superior to 
the most sublime philosophy. We are destined to contem- 
plate all the divine perfections, concentrated and harmonized 
in their first principle, to understand how one and the 
same love gives life to the most gentle mercy and the most 
inflexible justice, thus uniting in itself seemingly opposite 
attributes. We are destined to see how this love is identified 
with pure wisdom; how it embraces nothing that is not 
infinitely wise, and how all wisdom is changed into love. 
We are called to see this love that is identified with the 
Supreme Good that has been loved from eternity, to see 
divine Wisdom that is identified with the First Truth that 


has always been known. We are called to contemplate this 
eminent simplicity of God, this absolute pureness, the 
epitome of all perfections. 

Who will be able to tell the joy that such a vision will 
produce if even now we are already entranced by the reflec- 
tion of God's perfections scattered as they are in some 
small measure among His creatures, by the enchantment 
of the sensible world, by the harmony of colors and sounds, 
and still more by the splendor of souls as revealed in His 

Finally, we are called to see the infinite fecundity of 
this Divine Nature which subsists in Three Persons; to 
contemplate face to face the eternal generation of the 
Word, splendor of the Father and image of His substance 
(Heb. 1, 3); to see the ineffable Spiration of the Holy 
Spirit, this torrent of spiritual flame, the mutual love of 
Father and Son, which, from all eternity, unites them in a 
most absolute reciprocal self-giving. 

Such a vision will produce in us a love of God so 
strong, so absolute that nothing can ever destroy it nor 
even diminish it. It will produce a love built on admira- 
tion, respect, and gratitude, but above all on friendship, 
with the simplicity and familiarity that this love presup- 
poses. Through such a love we will enjoy above all else 
that God is God, that He is infinitely holy, infinitely 
merciful, infinitely just. It is a love that will make us adhere 
to all the decrees of His Providence in view of His glory, 
urging us to subject ourselves to what pleases Him so that 
He may reign eternally in us. Everlasting life for us will 
be to know God as He knows Himself, to love Him as He 
loves Himself. 

The Way to Glory 

Looking at this more thoroughly makes evident that 
such a knowledge and love cannot be realized in us unless 



God first deifies us in a certain manner in the depths of 
our soul. In the natural order man is capable of intellectual 
knowledge and of an illumined love superior to sensate 
love only because he possesses a spiritual soul. The situation 
is the same in the supernatural order where we are incapable 
of divine knowledge and divine love unless we first receive 
something of the very nature of God, unless our soul is 
deified in some way, that is to say, transformed in God. 
The blessed in heaven can participate in the divine operations, 
in the very life of God, precisely because they have received 
this nature from Him, just as a son receives his nature 
from his father. 

From all eternity God necessarily generates a Son similar 
to Himself, the Word. He communicates to Him His nature 
without dividing or multiplying it; He makes Him God of 
God, Light of Light, the splendor of His substance. Purely 
gratuitously, He has wished to have other sons in time, 
adopted sons through a sonship that is not only moral but 
real since the love of God for His creature adds a new 
perfection. He has loved us, and this creative love has 
made us participate in the very principle of His intimate 
life. " They are the ones He chose specially long ago and 
intended to become true images of His Son, so that His 
Son might be the eldest of many brothers," says St. Paul 
(Rom. 8, 29). In this is found precisely the essence of the 
glory that God reserves for those He loves: " the things 
that no eye has seen and no ear has heard, things beyond 
the mind of man, all that God has prepared for those who 
love Him " (I Cor. 2, 9). 

The elect will become part of the very family of God 
as they enter into the circle of the Holy Trinity. In 
them the Father will generate His Word; the Father and 
the Son will issue forth Love. Charity will assimilate them 
to the Holy Spirit and meanwhile the vision will assimilate 
them to the Word, who in turn will make them similar 
to the Father whose expression He is. At that time we 



will be able to say truly that we know and love the Trinity 
that dwells in us as in a temple of glory, and we shall 
be in the Trinity, at the summit of Being, Thought, and Love. 
This is the glory, this is the goal to which our spiritual 
progress tends — configuration to the Word of God. 

Fundamental Identity of the Life of Grace 
with the Life of Glory 

The spiritual life is able to tend to such an exalted 
end only because it presupposes in us the seed of glory, 
that is, a supernatural spiritual life which is basically iden- 
tified with everlasting life. 

The acorn could not become an oak unless it were of 
the same species and had essentially the same life as the 
grown tree; the child could not become a man unless it 
already possessed a human nature, even though in an 
imperfect state. In the same way the Christian on earth 
could not become one of the blessed in heaven unless he 
had previously received the divine life. To understand 
thoroughly the essence of the acorn, it is necessary to 
consider this essence in its perfect state in an oak tree. 
In the same way if we wish to understand the essence of 
the life of grace in us, we must consider it as an embryonic 
form of everlasting life, as the very seed of glory, semen 
gloriae. Fundamentally, it is the same divine life but two 
differences are to be noted. Here below we can know God 
only obscurely through faith and not in the direct light of 
vision. Moreover, through the inconstancy of our free will we 
can lose supernatural life, while in heaven it is impossible 
to be lost. Except for these two differences it is a question 
of the same divine life. The Holy Spirit already spoke 
through the mouth of Ezekiel (36, 25-26): " I shall pour 
clean water over you and you will be cleansed .... I shall 
give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you." To the 
Samaritan woman, Jesus spoke: " But anyone who drinks 




the water that I shall give will never be thirsty again: the 
water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside him, 
welling up to eternal life " (Jn. 4, 14). " If any man is 
thirsty, let him come to me! Let the man come and drink 
who believes in Me! As scripture says: From his breast 
shall flow fountains of living water " (Jn. 7, 37-38). " Mine 
is not a kingdom of this world " (Jn. 18, 36); " For, you 
must know, the Kingdom of God is among you" (Lk. 17, 21). 
Like the grain of mustard seed, the leaven that ferments 
the dough, or the treasure hidden in the field, the kingdom 
outwardly does not make a striking appearance. Yet the 
life of grace is basically identical with that in heaven. 
Jesus said so. 

Without doubt while on earth we cannot see God with 
clarity of vision and yet truly it is He whom we attain 
with our faith because we believe His word that already 
reveals to us the profundity of God. " Now instead of the 
spirit of the world, we have received the Spirit that comes 
from God, to teach us to understand the gifts that He 
has given us. Therefore we teach, not in the way in which 
philosophy is taught, but in the way that the Spirit teaches 
us: we teach spiritual things spiritually. An unspiritual 
person is one who does not accept anything of the Spirit 
of God: he sees it all as nonsense; it is beyond his under- 
standing because it can only be understood by means of the 
Spirit " (I Cor. 2, 12-14). " Only faith can guarantee the 
blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the 
realities that at present remain unseen" (Heb. 11, 1). 

Certainly supernatural life, grace, can be lost but that 
comes from the fact that we can go astray and fail. Grace, 
however, the charity in us, is in itself absolutely incorrup- 
tible, like spring water that can be preserved for an inde- 
termined period of time provided its container does not 
break, or like an indestructible force that would never cease 
working so long as the instruments it makes use of do 
not refuse to work. " For love is strong as Death," says 



the Song of Songs (8, 6). Love is strong, like death, and 
nothing can resist it. Its ardor is the blaze of fire, the 
flame of Yahweh. " Love no flood can quench, no torrents 
drown " {ibid. 8, 7). It triumphs over persecutions, over 
the most terrible tortures and the powers of hell. We too 
will be invincible if we allow ourselves to be penetrated 
by this love. No created force will be able to overcome us. 

This love, then, is identical with that of heaven. It 
presupposes that we have been " born not out of human 
stock or urge of the flesh or will of man but of God 
Himself " (Jn. 1, 13); that we are the sons and friends 
of God and not merely His servants; that we participate 
even in this life in the very nature and infinite life of 
God (cf. I Pet. 1, 9). We treat of an adopted yet real 
sonship, because the gratuitous love of God is essentially 
active in relation to us, making us similar to Him, just 
and holy in His eyes, worthy of life everlasting. 

The Holy Spirit in Us 

Now we can understand why revelation teaches us that 
in our present state the Holy Spirit dwells in us. It is certain 
that in heaven the whole Trinity dwells in the soul of 
the blessed as in a temple of glory in which it is known 
and loved. On the other hand, it is not said that the Word 
dwells in us here below, inasmuch as He is not yet mani- 
fested to us as the Word, as the Splendor of the Father. 
Likewise we do not say that the Father, the Principle of 
the Son, dwells in us, but we do say this of the Holy 
Spirit, of Substantial Love. Through this Love God has 
made us His sons. In fact, in our present state, charity, 
identical with that of heaven, assimilates us to the Holy 
Spirit and the Holy Spirit, principle of our charity, is as 
the heart of our heart, the vivifying source that renews 
and sanctifies our life. He consoles us in the pains of exile, 
continually draws us more towards the everlasting life of 



the Word, always conforming us more to the Son who, 
in turn, will assimilate us definitely to the Father in heaven. 

Consequently, the Holy Spirit dwells in us and makes 
us feel His presence. We perceive the Holy Spirit with an 
experiential knowledge wholly permeated with the love 
which proceeds from the gift of wisdom. The Holy Spirit 
is with us as friend with friend, a strong friend who never 
abandons us but always cares for our moral wounds, 
fortifying and elevating us: Comforter, Vivifier, Renewer, 

In this way God dwells in infants whereas He did not 
dwell in the greatest pagan philosophers. He delights in 
making His presence felt in the hearts of the most humble 
Christians, while He does not make Himself felt to the 
theologian infatuated with his abstract and speculative 

Behold the mustard seed in us! If we only understood 
the gift of God! If we only understood, as St. Paul tells 
us (cf. I Cor. 13, 2) that it is superior to the gift of 
prophecy, to the gift of miracles, to the science of angels! 
Miracles and prophecies are only signs that permit man to 
recognize the word of God, whereas grace, charity, makes 
it possible for God Himself to five in us and make us live 
with His love, thereby disposing us immediately to everlast- 
ing life. Since it is the principle of all merit, every work 
that does not proceed from it is dead, fruitless for salvation. 
It is the progress, the development of this seed, that we 
must study, already knowing the goal to which it tends. 
We shall begin by considering the obstacles that could com- 
promise or completely impede its growth. 

Lord, make us understand the infinite value of ever- 
lasting life which You have placed in us. Infuse in our 
heart a deep hatred of evil that could make us lose it. 
Teach us in a practical way how it ought to grow in us, 
that we may become like to You and merit to be called 
Your brothers and friends in the kingdom of heaven. 



Yahweh loves those who repudiate evil. — 
Psalm 97, 10 

We have seen what the ultimate end of life is, the goal 
of the spiritual progress of man, namely, configuration to 
the Word, participation in the intimate life of the only and 
eternal Son, in the glory of vision. Now we have to examine 
what separates us from this end, what not only hinders us 
from attaining it but hurls us into an abyss of miseries as 
inexpressible as the glory of which it deprives us. 

The Obstacle 

What diverts us from our ultimate end is sin. Fittingly 
we ask ourselves: do we have the divine hatred of sin? 
Do we try our utmost to understand that such a hatred, 
which has created hell, proceeds necessarily from the love 
owed God, and that such a hatred must be profound, intense, 
and without limits as is this love itself? 

To hate evil requires knowing it. Yet, too often we have 
only a verbal and superficial knowledge of it. We teach 
children the following catechism definition: " Sin is disobe- 
dience to the law of God; if grave it causes death to the 
soul making it deserve everlasting death. All the evils of 
this world are nothing by comparison with a single mortal 

The world does not believe this doctrine which comes 
from God, does not believe that sin is the worst evil of 



all. For the world the true evils are diseases, tuberculosis, 
paralysis, infirmities of every kind, poverty, and ruin. Pride, 
on the contrary, is not an evil in the eyes of the world; 
rather, it is even necessary for attaining success. A life given 
over to pleasure or laziness is not an evil for those rich 
enough to lead this type of existence. Forgetfulness of God 
is not an evil. God, in fact, according to the worldj is 
completely indifferent to our adoration and services, infi- 
nitely above our miseries. We, say the worldly, do not wish 
to offend God. We seek only our own pleasure. Moreover, 
the violence of passion and the circumstances of life excuse 
us from sin. In this way the world ends by denying the 
very existence of sin. 

Does not this spirit of the world exercise its influence 
even on us, making us sometimes say of deliberate venial 
sin what the world says of mortal sin? In explaining the 
catechism answer it does not seem too extreme to say that 
mortal sin is similar to those diseases that strike the body's 
vital parts such as the head or the heart while venial sin 
is similar to the diseases that paralyze the members and 
organs not absolutely indispensable to life, such as the eyes 
and the ears. 

He who commits a mortal sin separates himself totally 
from the principle of supernatural life which is God. He is 
cut off from his ultimate end, committing, as it were, 
suicide in the supernatural order. He who falls into venial 
sin impedes the action of God from exercising itself freely 
on him, and little by little ruins his supernatural health 
just as the alcoholic ruins the health of his body. Without 
completely abandoning the way that leads to God, we 
nevertheless retard our journey and dissipate our energies 
by futile delays instead of going straight ahead with speed. 
This deliberate venial sin may be vanity, slander, lying, 
sloth, and sensuousness. Some religious commit such sins 
with extreme ease on every occasion. They have read in 
spiritual writers that venial sin is a worse evil than any 



physical evil but they have inadequately grasped its signif- 
icance, forming for themselves a very superficial concept 
of it. Thus they feel little hatred for such evil. When they 
commit it they do not really repent. They fall into the 
malaise of lukewarmness which has many degrees. It is a 
kind of swamp where there is a continual meeting of the 
pure air descending from above and the unhealthy fumes 
coming from the nether world. We shall try to find the 
profound sense of the Lord's doctrine on sin and to hate 
it as God demands by trying to understand its malice along 
with the seriousness of its consequences. 

Malice of Sin 

Sin is essentially a disobedience to the law of God. 
What does it mean to disobey God? Sacred Scripture teaches 
us that sin is foolishness, a vileness, the worst type of 
ingratitude, injustice, and outrage. Sin is an offence whose 
gravity is, in a certain sense, infinite. All this is true, 
saving the proportion, whether said of mortal sin or delib- 
erate venial sin. We should ask the Lord to help us 
thoroughly understand this. 

Sin is first of all foolishness. St. Paul does not hesitate 
to affirm that those the world considers wise are fools in 
the eyes of God. The wisdom of the world that excuses 
and justifies unbelief, pride, sloth, and lust is foolishness. 
" Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God " 
(I Cor. 3, 19). Considering that God has deigned with 
infinite goodness to show us the way that leads to 
happiness — " learn to know Me, love Me and serve Me, 
and you will attain life everlasting " — are we not also 
foolish if we refuse to follow? We were created to answer 
" yes " to the divine call and instead we say "no." Thus, 
while God wishes to draw us to Himself, we put ourselves 
at a distance from Him. 



The worldly person rushes to his pleasures of the 
moment. He compares and contrasts his miserable goods 
with God and in practice, by his life and his manner of 
acting, he does not hesitate to affirm that such nonsense 
is worth more than God, more than His friendship and 
everlasting life. How many times he says: " God forbids 
it but I will do it anyway! " It is as if he were to say: 
" Sensuality is worth more than God; money, revenge, 
honors are worth more than He; my judgment more than His, 
my little capricious will more than the infinitly holy will 
of the Most High." We place our childish whim in opposi- 
tion to the will of God and it conquers. Is this not without 
doubt foolishness? It is the foolishness of an instant but 
it can become habitual and then produce a darkening or 
complete blinding of the spirit. This will be such a blinding 
that the transient good is preferred without hesitation to 
the eternal good, the poisoned fruit to the bread of life, 
while the sinner finally loses the consciousness of doing 
evil. The sinners " have . . . eyes, but never see, ears, but 
never hear " (Ps. 135, 16-17) and " drink iniquity like 
water! " (Job 15, 16). 

A deliberate venial sin committed by a soul consecrated 
to God is, in its own way, foolishness, " stultitia." The 
word " stultitia " as used by Sacred Scripture has a meaning 
in the supernatural order that is opposite to that of wisdom, 
of the gift of wisdom, just as the word " misery " expresses 
the perfect antithesis of supernatural beatitude. Wisdom, 
in fact, judges all things in relation to God and to the 
salvation of souls, while foolishness judges all, even God, 
in relation to ourselves and what is from our baser nature, 
namely, the petty envies and personal ambitions, the quest 
for comforts and momentary satisfactions. 

A rash judgment, a hard word that wounds and separates 
the soul of a confrere from us is foolishness in the eyes of 
God and produces, without exaggeration, a momentary loss 
of the habit of faith just as an attack of madness results 



in the loss of the use of reason. Instead of seeing the soul 
of our neighbor in the light of faith and of the Holy Spirit 
dwelling within him, he is seen in a natural and merely 
sensible light which reveals to us an aspect of his temper- 
ament opposed to our own. Such opposition, often physical 
and material, becomes the supreme norm of our judgment. 
This is an aberration in the eyes of God which merits the 
name of foolishness. The natural and impassioned judgment 
has darkened our supernatural judgment which is the correct 
one, just as in an insane person the imagination takes the 
place of reason. We entered the convent to help build up 
the Mystical Body of Christ, the heavenly Jerusalem, the 
city of souls, and instead we have worked to divide and ruin 

God has said to you: " My son, faithfully observe all 
of your rule, not just a part. Be submissive to your supe- 
riors who represent Me. Be humble, charitable, and I 
promise you sanctity, habitual prayer, a constant and indis- 
soluble union with My Son who died for love of you, 
with My Son who tenderly seeks your soul and wishes 
your whole soul for Himself. I will make your soul His 
spouse, and this spiritual marriage will be so intimate that 
the earthly union, in comparison, will only be a symbol 
and a shadow." This is what God promises. Yet, we say, 
not with words but with deeds: " Lord, I don't want the 
sanctity You offer me, I don't want habitual union with 
Christ. Let me live in mediocrity, in triviality, in lukewarm- 
ness; it is better for me." 

This is deliberate venial sin, true foolishness in the 
supernatural order. Such foolishness can become habitual, 
ending with the darkening of the spirit which induces us 
to see only the exterior, material, wearisome, irritating side 
of the exercises of religious life. Little by little it causes 
us to lose the understanding of the divine. The warnings 
that divine Providence sends us pass unobserved and like 
the worldly we also " have eyes and do not see, ears and 



do not hear," and even without being aware of it we 
drink in like water venial iniquity that is very real. 

Sin is not only foolishness, an evil of our intelligence. It 
is also and above all, vileness, a profound evil of our will. 
Indeed, however great his blindness may be, the conscience 
of the sinner is aware that the act he is about to accomplish 
is contrary to the law of God, to his own interest, to that 
which is better and nobler in himself, to right reason, to 
the light of faith, and to charity. He gives way before the 
temptation and no longer troubles himself to will the good. 
How many times do sinners say to us, " Yes, I am well 
aware that I sacrifice the greater part of my time, my 
energies, my health and my possessions to this blameworthy 
passion. My will is enfeebled and I am losing my dignity 
and character. I know it is foolishness but I can't do 
otherwise. " 

We also hear this reply sometimes in monasteries: " I 
can't do otherwise. Do you want me to be like a son under 
a superior who doesn't appreciate anything that I earnestly 
do, who doesn't like me, and who has no concern for me? 
I cannot! Do you want me to love as a brother this religious 
who has been jealous of me and has sought by all means 
to humiliate me? I cannot! There are repugnances that 
cannot be conquered." 

" I cannot! " Rather we should say " I don't want to; 
my will is too weak." If we truly wanted to, we would 
pray, asking God for the grace to triumph over the obstacles 
that hinder us from fulfilling our duty. God could not refuse 
us this grace because it is absolutely impossible that God 
would refuse us what is necessary for our salvation. " I 
cannot! " To what purpose then is Communion, absolution, 
and the example of the saints? 

I conclude with the most absolute certainty that we 
can but we do not want to by reason of our cowardice. 
The pusillanimous fear the light, they seek the darkness. 



In fact, their cowardice itself increases the darkness. The 
lukewarm religious does not want to grasp the greatness 
of the religious ideal because he does not want to carry it 
out. " He refused to understand that he should live right." 

Sin is not only a foolishness and vileness, but considered 
in relation to God it is also the blackest ingratitude, the 
greatest injustice, and the gravest outrage. God is a father 
who has given us all: existence, life, intelligence, a con- 
science to distinguish good from evil, a will to choose the 
good, and a heart to love it. To show us His love He gave 
us His Son, who died for us on the Cross; he restored 
us again to grace making us His friends; He has called us 
with a special vocation to live even here on earth in the 
intimacy of His love; and He calls us daily to Communion 
and surrounds us with a thousand interior graces. Instead 
of thanking Him, we put ourselves at a distance. We even 
come to the point of deliberately despising the graces He 
offers us, even His friendship itself. Sometimes we forget 
that we have received all from Him. Instead we boast of 
our intelligence and puny talents; we deliberately prefer 
ourselves to others; we abandon ourselves to a friendship 
that is based too much on feelings, thereby offending 
the divine friendship and saddening our adored Friend. 
This wound inflicted on the heart of Our Lord leaves us 
cold and indifferent. What kind of gratitude is this? 

It is also injustice because the gifts that God gives 
us remain His. God, the Creator, has full rights over our 
life. As supreme overlord He has the right of possession 
over our mind and our heart, and this right, more absolute 
than any of our property rights, remains binding even if 
we forget it. He possesses this right in such an absolute 
manner that He would cease to be God if He renounced it. 
For example, He has the right to demand that we do not 
tell conventional lies, slander anyone, or commit even a 
small breach of modesty; but we wish to possess this right. 



All eternity would be insufficient to repair our injustice 
toward God. 

Every injustice relative to God contains a special malice; 
it is an injury and an outrage. This slander and this 
rash judgment is an outrage towards the Holy Spirit who 
dwells within us; this impatient and angry word, this 
insubordination to our superior who is the Lord's represen- 
tative is an outrage towards the Lord. In a certain sense 
the injury is infinite since it is raised against the infinite 
majesty of God, because it refuses to recognize His absolute 
and eternal rights, preferring a momentary satisfaction to 
Him. Since God is present everywhere, we outrage Him 
to His face, as when a son insults his mother to her face. 
Even more, it is not only an affront before Him but in 
Him that we perpetrate since it is God who sustains us 
and conserves us in being. We therefore turn our intelli- 
gence and our heart against Him while He continues to 
give us the power of thinking, living, willing and speaking. 

Venial Sin 

Only the saints could tell us all the evil that a deliberate 
venial sin contains. Yet not even they grasp all its signif- 
icance, all its repercussions with respect to God, to Jesus, 
and to the soul. 

One says venial sin, small sin, light sin. We should 
watch that we do not fall into this error. The smallest 
venial sin is a greater evil than all sufferings, all disgraces, 
all ruins, and all purely physical evils. All the saints affirm 
this. It is such a great evil that the disorder caused by 
venial sin, as St. Thomas says, is in a certain sense 
greater than the disorder generated by original sin (cf. II 
Sent. d. 33, a. 1 ad 2). 

Certainly venial sin does not have the loss of God as its 
consequence. Nevertheless, it is more serious than the sin 
of nature in the sense that by it we act personally against 



God, we offend Him deliberately, thus meriting not His 
hatred but His anger — which makes no compromises with 

Foolishness, vileness, ingratitude, outrage, such is sin, 
whatever kind of sin, mortal or venial. What we have said 
should be sufficient to make us hate it, make us understand 
how much God Himself detests it, and how much His 
infinitely delicate love is wounded by it. The sin of a 
religious takes on a greater seriousness and is something 
like the sin of the angel or that of Judas since it is 
committed with full knowledge. 

Consequences of Venial Sin 

To penetrate more fully the seriousness of venial sin, 
especially if it is deliberate, we must consider its conse- 
quences, that is, see all the evil it produces in our souls 
at the present time and what it prepares for the future, its 
consequences here below and after death. 

In the present, in the very instant in which it is 
committed, venial sin deprives the soul of a precious grace. 
In that instant, grace was offered us to make progress in 
perfection, to be charitable, fervent, and industrious. If 
we had corresponded, our merit would have increased and 
for all eternity we would have contemplated God more 
intensely face to face. We would have loved Him more. 
Now this grace has been lost by our neglect, our laziness, 
and our limited charity. 

You will say, " But I can find the moment, the occasion 
to gain back the good that I lost." On the contrary, the 
answer is " no." You will not be able to recover the quarter 
hour you wasted. Not even God, with all His power, 
would be able to restore it. This grace, a thousand times 
more precious than the universe, has been lost forever. 
It is true that the sanctifying grace in you has not been 
diminished, that it remains in the same degree. Venial sin, 



however, limits its freedom of action and can prepare 
its ruin. 

Venial sin does not destroy charity but paralyzes its 
action and growth, makes it cold, and hinders its emergence. 
It does not kill the soul, but it leaves it without force and 
energy for the good. It diminishes the fervor of divine 
love, darkens the eyes of the soul and obscures the vision 
of God, just as partial paralysis without taking away life 
sometimes hinders considerably the body's freedom of 

Venial sin often deprives us of precious graces in the 
future. Is it that henceforth God will be less kind and less 
communicative? No, we are the ones who change. The 
graces that we refuse through our fault return to the bosom 
of God, or to be more exact, they are poured out again 
upon other souls. Our talent will be given to others who 
know how to bear fruit. The divine lights, therefore, become 
less vivid to us, the invitations of grace less frequent, less 
intense, and less victorious. 

If today we have lost time in vain conversation, or 
permitted ourselves to get angry without cause, then tomor- 
row God will deprive us of His light at the time of prayer. 
The lights and energy that would have sanctified us will 
be taken away because of our deliberate and repeated venial 
faults. For example, if we deliberately and repeatedly 
adhere to rash judgment, our charity slowly loses its vitality. 
Sometimes repeated venial sins drag us indirectly into mortal 
sin. While the graces become more rare, the evil inclinations 
get the upper hand and sanctifying grace that dwells in 
the soul slowly loses its liberty. The intelligence is oppressed 
by darkness, the will debilitated, the heart hardened and 
we become more and more engulfed in lukewarmness. The 
temptations of the enemy continually become more and 
more serious and frequent. We become separated from a 
person as a result of constant rash judgments. One day or 



another envy and jealousy will assume such proportions 
that charity will suffer gravely. 

" We meet in this dwelling place," says St. Theresa, 
" some poisonous snakes that can cause death. In these 
swamps there are fevers that incredibly weaken the soul 
and are able to cause its death." Indeed, we fall into a 
dangerous stupor of lukewarmness and in such a state mortal 
sin can surprise us. We can commit it almost without 
taking notice. Of the lukewarm it is written: " I know all 
about you: how you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you 
were one or the other, but since you are neither, but only 
lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth " (Rev. 3, 15, 
16). (Concerning the lukewarmness of religious, cf. St. 
Catherine of Siena in Dialogue, " Tract on Obedience," 
chap. 162 from 1 to 5.) 

Although we realize that divine mercy may hold us 
back on the more or less conscious descent leading to 
mortal sin, still, venial sin, not expiated here below, has 
some consequences after death that are as fearful as they are 
inescapable, that is, a purgatory possibly very long and 


Purgatory is the temporary privation of the greatest 
good, the vision of God. It is the state of abandonment 
in which the soul, immersed in the darkest night, is deprived 
of contact with any creature whatsoever, suspended, as it 
were, between heaven and earth, between the earth it 
has left behind and the heaven to which it has not yet 
been admitted. The faculties of knowing and loving are 
deprived of any object, while one seeks in vain to cling 
to something. 

The great mystics have described for us the terrible 
passive purifications of the senses and of the spirit through 
which God separates the soul from every creature, denying 



it every consolation, human help, and sensible devotion. 
He leaves the soul only the virtues, namely, faith with all 
its darkness, hope against every hope, and a suffering love 
nourished only by the very suffering that it heroically 

St. John of the Cross affirms that these purifications 
preparing the saints for the highest contemplation are more 
terrible than a thousand deaths. In reality, the soul without 
an exceptional grace would not have the strength to 

Purgatory will be like that. If our soul is stained with 
sin, it must necessarily be purified either here below or 
after death. We can believe that purgatory will be relatively 
severe for the souls that have committed only indeliberate 
venial sins that caught them off guard. How terrible and 
long will it be for the souls that sinned venially with full 
advertence and culpable negligence. Perhaps with their lips 
they never dare to say so, but their actions and life speak 
more openly than their mouth, crying out: " I am offending 
God. I know that I am wounding His love, abusing the 
blood of my Savior, and squandering the graces of absolu- 
tion and Communion and many more. Such is the price of 
satisfying for an instant my egoism, my self-love, my 
sensuality, my vanity." What retribution will be paid in 
purgatory for this seductive aspect of our wretched 


The means of escape from this state of lukewarmness 
are: a good retreat; a spiritual direction that is supernatural, 
wise, warmhearted and energetic; a great cross; or a great 
humiliation that makes us return inward, showing us the 
things of this world and the things of eternity under the 
right light. A great cross can illumine our pettiness, our 
poverty, and our misery. Finally there is prayer. The 



lukewarm, impoverished, despoiled soul always has the 
grace to pray. Only the damned are deprived of this. 
" Do not harden your hearts! " Jesus calls to us all: " Come 
to Me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will 
give you rest " (Mt. 11, 28). Our Lord has such a desire 
to pardon! He revealed this to St. Jerome: " Jerome, give 
Me your sins that I may pardon you. " Yet, " many are 
called, but few are chosen " (Mt. 22, 14) because not all 
pass through the narrow gate (Mt. 7, 13). (See St. Catherine 
of Siena, Dialogue, " Means to Escape from Lukewarmness," 
1, chap. 162; and The Imitation of Christ, " Corruption 
of Nature," III, chap. 55). 

If we have the good fortune of being fervent, we should 
pray ardently for the lukewarm souls who habitually pray 
little and so badly. We should beseech Jesus not to permit 
us to descend into those unhealthy regions that border on 
the depths, but rather to make us always penetrate farther 
into the fertile valleys and to elevate us little by little 
toward those summits to which our destiny as sons of God 
and as religious call us. 


The Redemptive Power 
of Christ 

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.— 
Jn. 14, 6 

This is the love I mean: not our love 
for God, but God's love for us when 
He sent His Son to be the sacrifice that 
takes our sins away. — I Jn. 4, 10 

The power that must support us is the redemptive 
action of Christ. " This is the love I mean: not our love 
for God, but God's love for us when He sent His Son to 
be the sacrifice that takes our sins away." Having reflected 
on the goal of the spiritual life, configuration to the Word 
in the light of glory, we considered what is essentially 
opposed to this progress and can always threaten and 
compromise it. Sin. Now we will see what that power is 
by which we can triumph over both sin and the inclination 
to evil that is the fruit of sin; that power with which we 
can raise ourselves above human limitations and attain the 
divine end to which Divine Providence and Mercy have 
destined us. 

Redemptive Omnipotence 

The power upon which rests the spiritual life of all 
souls striving to be freed from evil and raised up to God 
is the redemptive action of Christ, His ever active and 



efficacious love directed to the Father and to us. He Himself 
told us: " As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but 
must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you 
remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches " 
(Jn. 15, 4-5). The branches can live only if they are united 
to the vine and receive the sap from it. " Come to Me, all 
of you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give 
you rest " (Mt. 11, 28) — that is, burdened under the 
weight of your faults and sufferings. " And when I am 
lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to Myself " 
(Jn. 12, 32). 

Life itself teaches us that the strength of a soul in the 
midst of trial and temptations comes from its practical and 
experiential consciousness of the infinite value of Redemption, 
of the omnipotent efficacy of Christ's death on the Cross. 
In the confessional one day a poor woman was explaining 
to the priest the moral anguish in which she found herself. 
She was abandoned by her husband, her sons, and by all; 
she was seriously calumniated by those on whom she should 
have been able to rely; she was sick and tormented by 
hunger. The priest, seeing that he was dealing with a true 
Christian, said to her directly: " Our Lord suffered more 
than you, for love of you. " That poor woman, with full 
conviction, exclaimed: " That's true, it's really true! " She 
again found her strength and was able to continue on 
her way. 

According to the definition of the Church, the redemptive 
act of Christ has an infinite value and efficacy. It makes 
satisfaction for any guilt whatsoever, repairs fully any offense 
against God, even though its gravity is infinite. It satisfies 
for all the sins of men, and still more. It compensates 
for all the rebellions against God, all the apostasies, all the 
acts of despair and presumption, all the feelings of hatred, 
and all kinds of crime. It merits all graces for even the 
most degraded souls, provided they are not stubbornly fixed 



in evil. It is impossible to think of a limit to the efficacy 
of the redemptive act. 

The redemptive omnipotence of the act of Christ, who 
immolated Himself upon the Cross, derives from the fact 
that it is a perfect act of charity performed by a divine 
Person; the perfect act of the Incarnate Word. It is a 
supernatural act of charity towards God which makes Him 
forget all offenses. Such an act of charity performed by the 
Incarnate Word attains, by reason of the divine personality 
of the Word, an infinite efficacy to make satisfaction, to 
expiate, and to merit. 

The catechism teaches this doctrine to children. But do 
we ourselves comprehend it? Has it become for us a doctrine 
of life and everyday experience? It is easy to say that the 
act of charity of Christ attains, by reason of the divine 
personality, an infinite value and efficacy, but, do we seek 
to understand fully in our meditation and prayer this simple 
phrase that children know by memory yet whose profound 
meaning surpasses the understanding of angels? 

The Personality of the Incarnate Word 

The personality of the Incarnate Word. What do these 
words mean? Many errors on the meaning of this word, 
personality, circulate throughout the world. Today many 
talk in a pompous way about the development of their 
personality, but, in reality, they are developing only some 
natural gifts that permit them to be distinguished from other 
persons, gifts which make their pride grow daily. They 
believe that to practice renunciation and the so-called passive 
virtues of humility, obedience, patience, and meekness, that 
is, to follow Christian morality in its totality, constitutes 
the annihilation of one's personality. 

They have never seriously meditated in prayer on what 
constitutes the true worth of personality and the fact that 
it realizes its highest development in Our Lord Jesus Christ. 



We shall dwell a bit on this thought and strive to raise 
ourselves up gradually from the ordinary display of personal- 
ity to manifestations of the personality of Jesus. This 
is the personality which had in itself the total explanation of 
its redemptive power. 

Personality is what distinguishes man from inferior 
beings such as animals, plants, and stones. In us personality 
is the principle of our reason and liberty, a principle that 
assures us independence with respect to the material world, 
and thanks to which we shall be able to subsist after the 
disintegration of our body. It is a principle that permits 
us to act with autonomy and freedom in our present state, 
enabling us to resist the attraction of merely sensible goods 
according to the judgment of our intelligence and the choice 
of our freedom. 

Although all men are persons, they do not thereby have 
an equal personality. Many live almost exclusively under 
the tyranny of their senses and passions without managing 
to rise above the level of animal life. Their judgments and 
actions are not determined by their own personal conviction; 
rather, they accept without examination the ideas of their 
surroundings, their newspaper, their political party. While 
they refuse, in full conscience, to obey their legitimate 
superiors, they passively subject themselves to the preju- 
dices of a group and they allow themselves to be enticed 
by the most fantastic promises. They fail to escape the 
attraction of the moment and, having lost control of them- 
selves, permit themselves to be urged on like an animal, 
consequently falling into the power of the first one to 
approach them. This is the lowest level of personality. 

Personality can be gradually elevated as the activity of 
our spirit and will frees itself from the purely sensible life. 
This can be accomplished in the measure that we learn to 
control the influences exercised upon us instead of passively 
submitting to them. Finally, personality can be elevated 
insofar as we learn to decide and choose with full freedom, 



instead of responding instinctively to the attraction that 
solicits us. 

In this development of personality, however, there lies 
a grave danger. Since personality is measured by the 
independence of the being who acts, some believe that 
the highest development of personality consists in absolute 
independence. They consider this independence not only 
in relation to the lower levels of reality, to which we must 
never allow ourselves to be enslaved, but also in relation 
to our superiors and God himself. The true names for 
this false personality are insubordination, rebellion, unbe- 
lief, and atheism. It derives essentially from pride and is 
found fully realized in the devil. 

The Mystery of the Incarnation teaches us, on the contrary, 
that the human personality develops in the measure that 
the soul, elevating itself above the merely sensible world, 
places itself in closer dependence on what constitutes the 
true life of the spirit. That means closer dependence on 
truth and grace, and, in the ultimate analysis, on God. 

While the great philosophers scarcely caught a glimpse 
of this, the saints truly grasped the way to the full 
development of our personality. It consists in losing in some 
way our own personality in the personality of God who 
alone possesses personality in the perfect sense of the word. 
He alone is absolutely independent in His being and actions, 
that is, He alone is independent of all creation. 

Hence the saints at the level of knowledge and love made 
strenuous efforts to substitute the personality of God for 
their own, to die to themselves so that God might reign 
in them. They were armed with a holy hatred of their own 
ego. They sought to make God the principle of their actions, 
no longer acting according to the rules of the world or 
their own limited judgment, but according to God's ideas 
and rules as received through faith. They sought to substitute 
the divine will for their own, and to act no longer for 
themselves but for God, loving Him not as themselves 


but infinitely more than themselves and more than any 
other thing whatsoever. They understood that God had 
to become for them another ego more intimate than their 
own. They had to realize that God was more " them " then 
they themselves because He is preeminently Being. Therefore, 
they made strong efforts to renounce their personality and 
every attitude of independence before God; they sought 
to make of themselves something divine. Consequently, they 
developed the most forceful personality conceivable. They 
obtained in some way what God possesses by nature, 
namely independence from every created thing, not only in 
the corporeal world but also in the world of intelligence. 

" The saints have their empire, their glory, their victory, 
their splendor, and they have no need of carnal or spiritual 
splendors; knowledge of human science adds nothing to 
their perfection in the supernatural order. (Being a genius 
in mathematics adds nothing to a saint.) They are seen by 
God and the angels, not by men and inquiring spirits. 
God is sufficient for them! " (Pascal). 

The saint, once he has come to substitute in some 
measure the personality of God for his own, can exclaim 
with St. Paul: " I have been crucified with Christ, and I 
live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ 
who lives in me " (Gal. 2, 19-20). Is it he then who lives 
henceforth or is it God who lives in him? In the order 
of the operations of knowing and loving the saint has 
substituted, as it were, the divine ego for his own ego, but 
in the order of being his ego remains distinct from God. 

In this respect Christ, the Man-God, appears as an 
unreachable goal to which sanctity still strives to draw 
near. In Him it is no longer only in the order of knowledge 
and love that the human ego makes room for a divine Person, 
but also in the order of being itself, the root of operations. 
One must properly say of Jesus that He has absolutely no 
human personality but exists and subsists entirely in the 



power of the very personality of the Word with which He 
constitutes one unique being. This, then, is the ultimate 
reason for this prodigious personality of whom history has 
never given another example and never will. Here is the 
ultimate reason for the infinite majesty of this unique and 
exceptional ego that belongs to Christ. 

" The Father and I are one " (Jn. 10, 30). " I am the 
Way, the Truth and the Life " (Jn. 14, 6). " Come to Me, 
all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give 
you rest" (Mt. 11, 28). I shall pour new strength into 
your weary souls and I shall raise up your dead souls. 
" If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me! Let the man 
come and drink who believes in Me! As Scripture says: 
From his breast shall flow fountains of living water " (Jn. 
7, 37-38). " Everyone who believes has eternal life .... And 
I will raise him up at the last day " (Jn. 6, 47, 44). " Anyone 
who prefers father or mother to Me is not worthy of Me " 
(Mt. 10, 37). 

This ego of Christ is the ego of the Incarnate Word. Just 
as in us the soul and the body belong to the same person, 
so in Him the humanity and the divinity belong to the same 
person, that of the Word. 

The Charity of Christ 

What then will be the value of an act of charity of 
Christ if already an act of charity performed by the most 
humble Christian is superior to the intuitions of a genius, 
and if an act of charity performed by the saints produces 
such great wonders in the souls of those around them! 
What will be the value of an act of charity of Christ, act 
of the human will that belongs to the Word! The smallest 
act of charity of Christ is sufficient to redeem humanty and 
repair all rebellions because the smallest meritorious act 
of the Word has an infinite value. 



We know what this act of charity of Jesus was. It is 
already true that " a man can have no greater love than 
to lay down his life for his friends " (Jn. 15, 13). But Our 
Lord has given His life for His enemies and for those of 
His Father. At Gethsemane He saw all the past and future 
sins including those of His executioners; He saw His 
abandonment by His own followers, the persecutions, the 
apostasies, and the hatreds; He saw the infinite gravity of 
the offense to God. In His human soul He suffered for all 
the evil and all the insults made to God His Father in 
proportion to His love for Him and for us. He suffered 
in the way an older brother suffers when he sees his father 
offended by younger brothers whom the father had always 
tried to lead to the good. 

Jesus took upon Himself the responsibility for all the 
sins of men, and He began to suffer for them as if it had 
been He who had committed them, as if He were impious, 
rebellious, frenzied, cowardly, ungrateful, and sacrilegious. 
He felt the divine anger and divine curse weigh on His 
soul while hell with supreme fury broke loose against Him. 
The horror of evil and all vices together seemed for an 
instant to suffocate Him. A cry burst from His lips on the 
Cross: " My God, My God, why have You deserted Me? " 
(Mt. 27, 46). 

In this darkness, in this abandonment, Our Lord per- 
formed His greatest act of love. In the midst of this anguish 
He loved His Father above everything and He loved us 
even to the giving of His life for our salvation, only grieving 
that a greater number were not saved. This act of love 
makes abundant satisfaction for all hatreds. The obedience 
that it involves compensates for all rebellions in the eyes of 
God. The humiliations of the Passion redeem all acts of 
pride. The gentleness of Him crucified repairs all acts of 
anger and His sufferings pay for all sensuality. 


The Mystical Body 

This act of charity of the Incarnate Word has saved the 
world. This act can still save us today and sustain all souls. 
" Christ, as we know, having been raised from the dead 
will never die again " (Rom 6, 9), " since He is living 
forever to intercede for all who come to God through Him " 
(Heb. 7, 25). His act of love continues to defend us against 
all the seductions of the world and the devil. 

Who can doubt the infinite efficacy of the love of Christ 
and His omnipotence against evil? " With God on our side 
who can be against us? " (Rom. 8, 13). " Nothing therefore 
can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are 
troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food 
or clothes, or being threatened or even attacked .... For 
I am certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no 
prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any 
power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever 
come between us and the love of God made visible in 
Christ Jesus Our Lord " (Rom. 8, 35-39). 

This redemptive work of Christ eagerly awaits being 
poured out abundantly over us. Christ is the head of 
humanity and the life of grace flows from Him into mankind 
in the same way as in the human body the stimulus of the 
nerves is transmitted from the head to the members, and in 
the tree the sap flows from the trunk into the branches. 

The souls united to Christ through faith and charity 
form, in fact, a body that is aptly called " The Mystical 
Body " of Christ. It is a reality more genuine than the 
human body. Just as the life of the spirit is greater and 
more real than the life of the senses, which is, as it were, 
only a shadow of the former, so, in its turn and to a greater 
extent, the supernatural life is more true and more real 
than the human body or even the natural life of the pure 



The bonds that unite the members of the Mystical 
Body to one another and to Jesus Christ are consequently 
the supernatural bonds of a reality so eminent that only 
God can accomplish it and completely understand it. 

The principal act of the Mystical Body of the Lord is 
the oblation of the sacrifice of the Mass. The priest offers 
the sacrifice in the name of the faithful, but it is principally 
Christ Who offers Himself through the priest. It is always 
the same and unique oblation of the sacrifice of the Cross 
that is repeated in unbloody form, an act ever alive in the 
heart of Christ who does not cease interceding and offering 
Himself to His Father for us. I would even say, under 
this aspect, that Christ continues to suffer for us, as the 
devotion to the Sacred Heart says, to suffer in His members 
and in His saints, as a mother suffers in her son when she 
sees him in pain. The sacrifice of the Cross continues, then, 
in a mysterious but real way in the sacrifice of the Mass, 
and it is this act of oblation of the Son to His Father 
that sustains the world. 

Life is poured out into the Mystical Body by means 
of the sacraments: by means of absolution that raises the 
dead members to life; through the Eucharist that conserves 
the life of grace and renews the fervor that venial sin has 
weakened; and finally by means of all the interior inspi- 
rations and all the actual graces with which the Lord favors 
us. It is a fountain of divine life that flows from Him to 
us, streaming forth into everlasting life. How many times 
we have noticed this power of Christ: in our individual 
fives, through absolution and Communion; and in the social 
life of the Church, always rising from the worst persecutions 
younger and stronger! 

Hence, we should have confidence in this redemptive 
power of Christ on which the whole supernatural life 
must be founded. We should listen to His invitation: 
" Come to Me . . . and I will give you rest." " In baptism I 
gave you a pure and shining soul," He seems to say to us, 



" and see how spoiled is the one you have; but, come to 
Me and I shall refashion it. Come to Me, all you who 
have darkened your intelligence and lost sight of the ideal, 
and I shall enlighten you. Come to Me, you who have a 
conscience that has gone astray and I shall set it straight. 
Come to Me, you who have a weak will, and I shall 
strengthen it for you; and you who have a stubborn heart, 
come and I shall teach it anew the joy and love of God." 

Jesus Christ has the power to lead us to our ultimate 
end and He alone can configure us to the Word of God 
because He is the Word. Knowing our sins, He wishes 
not only to heal us but through His blood to raise us up 
higher. " However great the number of sins committed, 
grace was even greater" (Rom. 5, 21). 

In His revelations to St. Margaret Mary He laments 
the coldness of some souls consecrated to Him. We should 
permit Him to work in us, allow Him to assimilate us to 
Himself, and ask Him to teach us in a practical way to 
cooperate with His action and to travel the way that He 
Himself has outlined for us. 


The Love of God 

We are to love, then, because God loved 
us first.— I Jn. 4, 19 

We have examined what the aim of the spiritual life 
is, what obstacles oppose it, and what is the divine power 
upon which it is based. Now we shall consider what our 
cooperation with the action of God ought to be, what the 
spiritual life is, and what the general laws are that regulate 
its development. Reason and faith describe this for us. 

The First Commandment 

Our cooperation requires conforming our will to that of 
God and observing His commandments. The first of these, 
the beginning and end of all the others (to which also all 
the counsels of the religious life are subordinated), consists 
in the love of God: " You shall love Yahweh your God 
with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your 
strength " (Deut. 6, 5). 

Charity is called the bond of perfection, vinculum perfec- 
tions (cf. Col. 3, 14), because it unites our soul to God, 
our ultimate end, and makes all our forces and all our 
actions converge toward Him. Since it must lead us to our 
ultimate end, it must command all the other virtues, subor- 
dinating them to this end. 

" It is the principle as well as General of the Army 
of virtues," says St. Francis de Sales, " and to it we must 
attribute all the deeds through which we attain victory." 



Hence, without charity we are nothing: " If I have all 
the eloquence of men or of angels ... if I have the gift 
of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and 
knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, 
to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing 
at all * (I Cor. 13, 1 ff.). Without charity our will is not 
conformed to that of God, while charity, true charity, 
suffices for all because it embraces all the other virtues 
which are subordinate to it. In this sense St. Augustine 
could say: " Love, and do what you wish." If you really 
love, what you do will be good. 

We ought to meditate upon the nature of charity and 
see how this supernatural love of God can become the 
principle of our whole life and can set us on the way to 
glory, to configuration to the Word, and to perfect posses- 
sion of God. 

Natural Love, Supernatural Love 

Natural reason and experience can tell us what love is 
not; only faith can reveal to us what it is. Ordinary reason 
and experience show us that our heart here below is unable 
to find anything that can fully satisfy it. When we believe 
that we have found happiness in a created good, in a 
position that we have desired for a long time, in a new 
science, in a very intimate and elevated friendship, very 
soon we realize that it is a case of a limited good and, 
therefore, insufficient for a nature like ours that can conceive 
of an unlimited, total, absolute good which it naturally 

The profound boredom which worldly persons experience 
and drag with themselves to every part of the world is a 
sign that their heart was made for a good infinitely higher 
than anything they are seeking. The continual need of 
change that pushes them first toward one creature and 
then another, each of which they abandon in turn after 



having enjoyed its pleasure, is a sign that God alone can 
fill the infinite emptiness of their heart. 

According to a rigorous philosophic principle, our will 
possesses an infinite profundity, so that finite goods, in- 
capable of reaching to its depths, are hardly even able to 
skim its surface. God alone can satisfy our needs and give 
us that fountain of living water about which Our Lord 
spoke to the Samaritan woman and which alone can truly 
quench our thirst. For this reason St. Catherine of Siena 
says to us: "Do you want a friendship that will be lasting? 
Do you wish to quench your thirst continually from this 
cup? Let it always be filled at the fountain of living water; 
otherwise you will soon empty it and it will no longer 
be able to satisfy your thirst." 

Common reason and experience show us the possibility 
and necessity of loving God. They even tell us that this 
love ought to be the principle of every human life, just as 
the love of art is the principle of the artist's life, as love 
of science is the principle of the scientist's life, as love of 
country is the principle of the soldier's life, of his hard 
labor and of the sacrifices that he imposes on himself. 
But love of art, science, and country is not sufficient to 
satisfy the heart of man, who can conceive of the absolute 
good, aspire to it, and feel that he should subordinate his 
whole life to it. 

Consequently there is a natural love of God which reason 
by itself can teach us and which was also extolled by the 
great pagan philosophers. But this natural love of God is 
infinitely far from Christian charity which is essentially 
supernatural. Supernatural love is a love of friendship for 
God which ordinary reason cannot grasp. 

In fact, the spiritualistic philosophers, outside Christianity, 
do not hesitate to affirm that they are indeed able to have 
feelings of ideal admiration, gratitude, and respect for God. 
Yet, according to them it is impossible to love with a love 
of friendship a being whom we have never seen, a being so 



superior that he is by his nature invisible and incomprenhen- 
sible, a being to whom we owe all things but for whom 
we can do nothing. Friendship presupposes that the person 
who is loved is seen. Furthermore, it demands a certain 
equality, a certain common life, the reciprocal revealing of 
one's most intimate thoughts and the possibility of one doing 
good for the other. Between God and us such a love of 
friendship cannot be realized. So speaks reason left to itself. 

Revelation. What reason cannot discover, Christ has 
revealed to us. St. Paul says that He has shown us God's 
excess of love for us and taught us that our love ought 
to be a response and be modeled on the very love God has 
for us. " We are to love, then, because God loved us first " 
(I Jn. 4, 19). We must meditate together on what God's 
love for us has been, on what has been the response of the 
saints, and on what our response should be. 

The Love of God for Us 

God's love for us is said to be excessive and foolish. 
St. Paul defines God's love for us as an " excess " since it 
infinitely exceeds and surpasses what reason can comprehend 
and the heart can desire. Relative to us, it is excessive but 
not in itself. St. Paul also calls it, and without exaggeration, 
0 foolishness " because this love has in some way overturned 
the natural relationship of God toward the creature. In 
Christ He died in place of the creature who had become His 
enemy. Such a thing is inconceivable foolishness for natural 
reason. Aptly then is it defined as " the foolishness of the 
cross " and such " foolishness " is reparation for that other 
foolishness which is sin. 

We should meditate upon this excess of love. True love 
whereby another being is loved, not only for one's own 
self-interest but for the other being itself, is not only a 
passive love but is also active. It is not a simple emotional 
satisfaction that is born at the sight of a pleasing object, 



but rather an effective and operating love whereby the good 
of the loved person is willed. 

This active love consists in going outside of self and 
one's own egoism to be carried toward the being whose good 
is willed; in uniting oneself to this being by a communion 
of will and sentiment; and in dedicating oneself to the other 
being, in giving oneself to it in order to elevate it, make 
it better and more beautiful. 

Hence, the mother bends over her baby, forgetting about 
herself and all her preoccupations, to dedicate herself entirely 
to this little being who lives solely because of her. Then she 
takes him, embraces him, presses him to herself as if she 
wished to form one single being with him. She dedicates 
herself to him, day and night, and she gives him food of 
body and soul that he may grow and become gradually 
opened to the life of reason and grace. 

This type of true love enables us to catch a glimpse of 
what has been God's excess of love for us. The charity of 
God for us is a love essentially active and effective. How 
could it be simple emotional satisfaction since all that God 
finds pleasing in us comes from Him and cannot be given 
to us except through gratuitous love? The love of God, 
far from supposing lovableness in those it loves, creates 
it in them through pure benevolence. 

God has no need of us. He was infinitely happy without 
us because He Himself is the infinite good. He created us 
through pure benevolent love and through pure love He 
gives us at every moment all that is necessary for our 
physical, intellectual, and moral life. His love for us goes 
beyond the exigencies of human nature and anything it 
could conceive and desire, elevating it to the supernatural 
order, allowing it to participate through grace in His intimate 

Yet, man did not know how to worthily appraise the 
infinite value of this divine life. In his blindness he under- 
valued it, even to the point of sinfully preferring an infinitely 



inferior life. Therefore, through his own fault he fell 
headlong from the supernatural heights to which divine 
mercy had elevated him. 

But see how God's love comes to look for man even 
in his ruin and misery. It is here that this foolishness, 
which overturns in a certain sense the natural existing 
relationship between the Creator and His creature, begins. 

We were fallen, but God wished to stoop down over 
us, to descend to our level, just as a mother stoops down 
toward her baby. He was divested of His glory, of His 
infinite majesty. He did not wish to appear in the natural 
splendor of His magnificence as upon Sinai. He wished, as 
it were, to make Himself nothing. As St. Paul says, " He 
emptied Himself " to bring Himself down to our level. He 
took a body and a soul like ours, divesting Himself of all 
glory and choosing the most humble condition among men. 
He wished to be born the son of a laborer and to place 
Himself in the number of the poorest so that all might 
be able to come to Him without fear. 

In abasing Himself and uniting Himself to us by assuming 
our nature, God wished to share in our life itself. Conse- 
quently, He fulfilled our duties, suffered our pains, expe- 
rienced our weariness, perspired with our sweat, shed our 
tears, embraced us and desired our happiness more than we 
can ourselves. Even more, the Word of God wished to 
wash our feet. 

Finally, He desired to accomplish the total gift of self 
by dying on the Cross for us. After having undergone the 
worst humiliations, He shed His blood in the midst of 
atrocious sufferings. This He did to restore our inheritance 
and make us, in some way, equal to Himself. He elevated 
us to the order of the supernatural, divine, and eternal life 
which in our blindness we had despised and lost. 

Yes, St. Paul can speak of an " excess of love " because 
the natural relationships between the Creator and the 
creature are exceeded. He can speak of " foolishness " since 



the natural relationships of the Creator toward His creature 
are, in a certain sense, reversed. God, offended, dies for 
the culpable creature who despises and flees from Him! 
Something of this " foolishness " can be glimpsed from the 
example of certain Christian mothers who, in the excess of 
their love, offer themselves as victims for a son who insults 
and dishonors them. 

The rationalists are not wrong in saying that reason, left 
to itself, cannot comprehend. In fact, one is dealing with 
a foolishness that nature cannot conceive, which to the 
rationalists seems unworthy of God. One is dealing with an 
abyss of supernatural love in which reason is lost; only 
faith can admit it, only the gaze of the saints can penetrate 
it. Yet, only in heaven by the light of the Beatific Vision 
will the infinitely superior harmony of this mystery ever 
be completely unveiled. 

Bui die light of faith is still not wholly sufficient. The 
light of experience and of vision are necessary. Theology 
itself, with the light of faith alone cannot demonstrate the 
expediency of the Cross. Theology is hardly able to attempt 
an interpretation of certain exclamations of Our Lord as: 
" My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" 

Our Lord has loved us still more, if such can be said. 
Indeed, at the moment He left us and deprived us of His 
sensible presence He declared His wish of remaining with 
us even to the end of time and of giving Himself to us 
in a more intimate and complete way. It was not sufficient 
for Him to have abased Himself to the level of the Incar- 
nation; He wished to abase Himself even to the level of 
the Eucharist, to empty Himself to the point of disappear- 
ing under the appearances of bread and wine. Although 
He foresaw in the smallest details all the profanations that 
would take place, He chose to remain just as docile in the 
hands of the sacrilegious priest as in the hands of the 
saintly priest. It was not sufficient for Him to unite Himself 
to us to become our life; He wished also to unite Himself 



to us, to each of us, body and soul, in Communion. It was 
not sufficient to shed His blood for us; He wished to give 
us His body for food, He wished to be eaten by us that 
He might be able to transform and assimilate us still more 
to Himself. Such is the excess of God's love for us, but 
this love demands a response. 

The Response of the Saints 

The response that the saints have given is this. They 
have done their utmost to love God with a love identical to 
His. God's love is a love that is essentially active and 
effective, a love that acts and creates. The saints were not 
content with a simple emotional satisfaction, with a 
wonderful admiration, or with that superficial enthusiasm 
that is born from the idea of the divine perfections. They 
understood the saying of Jesus: " It is not those who say 
to me, ' Lord, Lord ', who will enter the kingdom of 
heaven, but the person who does the will of My Father in 
heaven" (Mt. 7, 21). They did not measure their charity 
on the basis of the sweetness of sensible devotion; instead, 
they loved God with a profound love of the will, which 
subsists even in the midst of desolations and aridity. This 
is a profound love which is nourished, as St. Catherine of 
Siena says, not only from the milk of spiritual consolations 
but also from the hard bread of tribulations. Here was love 
through which they desired first and foremost the glory of 
God and His kingdom. The saints were consumed with a 
thirst for justice and the kingdom of God. 

The love of the operating will endeavored to reproduce 
in its entirety the love of God. God had stooped down 
toward us, in the excess of His love, abasing Himself even 
to our level; He had descended quite lower than we, even to 
the point of taking upon Himself the gravest humiliations. 
The saints understood that they, in their turn, should humble 
themselves before God, because God had reversed His role. 



They wanted to humble themselves, to descend from the 
throne of their own self-love, and to seek the last place and 
that obligation of service that God had chosen for Himself 
on earth. 

We have seen a king like St. Louis kneel with his 
forehead in the dust before the gates of the cities of Palestine 
and beseech God not to permit a curse to fall on those 
cities because of sins. We have seen some saints, such as 
St. Benedict Labre, take as much care to remain with those 
who insulted him as he did in fleeing those who praised 

Just as God emptied Himself and renounced His glory 
in order to live our life, so the saints wished to die to the 
purely natural life of senses, of self-love and egoism, to 
allow themselves to be penetrated by divine life. Just as 
the higher a building is to be raised, so much deeper the 
foundation must be, they understood that the more abun- 
dantly divine grace was to fill them, so much the deeper 
the selflessness that humility had to hollow out in them. 

After being so humiliated the saints attained the deepest 
union with God. Just as God had willed to take a human 
way of acting, so they willed to acquire a divine way of 
acting. They retired into solitude to live in continual recol- 
lection. When they were unable to separate themselves 
physically from the world, they constructed for themselves, 
as St. Catherine of Siena did, a cell in the most intimate 
part of their heart, to live there in constant union with 

Who can tell us what the object of love was for 
St. Dominic or Thomas Aquinas in those nights of penance 
and prayer passed in tears at the foot of the altar? It was 
God, preferred above all, loved more than all, with 
undivided heart, yet with no exclusions — for this love 
embraced, elevated, and intensified all legitimate affections. 
In the fire of charity these affections became an ardent and 
consuming thirst for the salvation of souls. 



Finally, as God offered Himself for us on the Cross, so 
the saints offered themselves to God, even to the point of 
martyrdom so that His will might be accomplished, that 
His kingdom might be established in souls, and that He 
might be glorified. And when (as in the case of St. Dominic) 
they were unable to obtain martyrdom though ardently 
desiring it, they still experienced a daily death, though no 
less heroic, of labors, of pains and of continual tribulations. 
As God gave Himself to them as food, in the same way, 
they responded to His love and let themselves be consumed 
body and soul by Him, making themselves " food " of God. 

St. Dominic, St. Catherine, St. Peter Martyr, St. Rose 
of Lima, St. Catherine of Ricci, St. Pius V, St. Louis Ber- 
trand, and all the saints tell us the same thing through their 
lives, namely, that the ardent charity that burned in their 
hearts consumed them little by little, for this is the law 
of love. Love, which is as strong as death, makes us die to 
ourselves that we may be born to another life. There nothing 
is opposed any longer to the devouring flame because one 
is immersed in that fire of charity which is God. Such is the 
response of the saints to God's love. 

Our Response 

" Behold that heart which has so loved men that it 
spared nothing, even exhausting itself and consuming itself 
to attest its love to them. And yet from the greatest part 
of them I receive only ingratitude as shown by contempt, 
irreverence, sacrileges, and coldness that they have for Me 
and My Sacrament of Love. But what gives Me more pain 
is that it is a question of souls consecrated to Me " 
(St. Margaret Mary Alacoque). 1 

1 " And for this reason I am asking you that the first Friday after 
the octave of the most Holy Sacrament be dedicated to a particular feast 
to honor my Heart, making to it a reparation of love with honorable 



Of these four words, contempt, irreverence, sacrilege, 
and coldness, I fear that the last one is addressed to us. 
Coldness! The warmth of charity is not a sensible warmth. 
It is a wholly spiritual fire which continues to flame in 
the midst of the desolations and aridity with which God 
purifies our sensibility. But this love must be operative. 
It is certain that all of us, like all Christians, must respond 
with love to God's love because charity is a precept, not 
a counsel. Yet, is our love effective and operative or is 
it a self-satisfying, passive thing? Does it persist despite 
aridity and the desolations necessary to purify our sensi- 
bility? Are we disposed to go outside ourselves, to bend 
ourselves toward Our Lord, to humble ourselves as He 
humbled Himself? Are we dying to the sensible and natural 
life in order to live the life of Christ? Do we accept the 
daily sacrifice which the common life demands? Is our 
love like that of the saints? 

The quality of our charity is not measured by the 
sweetness of a sensible devotion. The infallible signs of 
progress in charity are the hatred of sin and the configuration 
to Christ by means of progress in all the virtues and gifts 
of the Holy Spirit. If we do not wish to die to sin, if we 
do not wish to mortify ourselves, we do not love the Lord 
and we live the religious life in vain. 

In religious communities, from what do disobedience, 
the harshness of judgment, the antipathies that are not 
overcome and the divisions derive? They are derived from 
not wishing to die to self. And yet we did not enter religious 
life except to die to self. In fact, only if we know how to 
die to ourselves will Christ be able to grow in us. 

amends, receiving Holy Communion that day to repair the indignities that 
it has received when exposed on the altars. I promise you that my Heart 
will be enlarged to make abundant graces descend upon those who render 
it this honor and endeavor to have the feast accomplish its purpose. " 



If this happens then not only the natural acquired 
virtues that the world can recognize will make themselves 
known in our life, but also those infinitely superior virtues 
which are the Christian virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit. 
These include the spirit of faith which is nourished by 
thoughts of God; confident hope which relies exclusively 
on God; charity which unites us always more intimately to 
Him despite sadness, interior pains and tribulations of 
every kind and asks only the possibility of being poured 
out for one's neighbor; Christian prudence which is always 
much opposed to the prudence of the flesh; justice in dealing 
with our neighbor, which stops us from formulating even 
the smallest rash judgment about the soul of one of our 
confreres; fortitude which never draws back from the work 
fixed by God and patiently bears trials; and temperance 
which gradually makes the instinctive movements of our 
senses and of our heart docile, penetrating them with the 
divine life. Thus we shall also acquire, like the saints, a 
divine way of acting. The spirit of wisdom, understanding, 
science, counsel, piety, fortitude, and fear will penetrate us 
more and more. 

Then we shall not desire other than to give ourselves 
to God until death. Our love will find new nourishment in 
the daily labors and sacrifices of the common life. If our 
body is slowly consumed, we should remember that God 
is hungry for us. Just as He gave Himself to us as food, 
we ought to give ourselves to Him so that He may transform 
us into Himself and take us from this poor life here below, 
which is a death in comparison to the life that awaits us 


Fraternal Charity 

I have given them the glory You gave to 
Me, that they may be one as We are 
one. — Jn. 17, 22 

When our soul is purified by mortification and renun- 
ciation, the supernatural light that is given us in prayer 
increases the love of God in us and permits us to accomplish, 
in a manner more and more perfect, the first precept of 
the Law: " You shall love the Lord, your God, with all 
your soul, with all your heart, with all your mind, with 
all your strength." But there is a second precept which 
derives necessarily from the first: " You must love your 
neighbor as yourself " (Mt. 22, 34 ff.). 

Love of neighbor is presented to us by Our Lord as a 
necessary consequence and sign of our love of God: " Just 
as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this 
love you have for one another, everyone will know that 
you are My disciples " (Jn. 13, 34-35). St. John has written: 
" Anyone who says, ' I love God ', and hates his brother, 
is a liar " (I Jn. 4, 20). 

One day Our Lord wanted to make Blessed Henry 
Suso, who had asked to be shown a truly perfect man, 
understand this truth. Blessed Henry had this vision. In the 
middle of a vast plain he saw a cross and at its foot a man 
of meek aspect and with a kind and gentle look; a little 
bit farther on there were two groups of men, very different 
among themselves, who were trying in vain to reach him. 
This man represented Christ and all those who have attained 



union with Christ, characterizing themselves by their mild- 
ness and gentleness. One of the two groups represented 
the intellectuals who contemplate and admire the truth, 
but do not put it into practice as perfection demands. 
The other group represented all those men who give them- 
selves to all the practices taught by the authors on spiritual- 
ity and to the greatest mortifications. Neither of the two 
groups could reach Christ, and for the same reason. Those 
who passed their life in contemplation, or rather in specula- 
tion, without putting these truths into practice, judged and 
condemned others without mercy; while those who made a 
profession of mortification condemned without mercy those 
who did not follow their way. These religious did not 
reach Christ because they did not love one another, and 
their lack of charity showed itself in the harshness of 
their judgment. Henry Suso gave thanks for this lesson 
and, though well advanced in perfection, beat his breast 
for having lacked fraternal charity and for having severely 
judged his confreres. 

We ought to meditate on this great obligation of charity 
toward our neighbor. If we are lacking in it so many times 
or permit ourselves to develop an excessive affection other 
than that demanded of us by the Lord, it is because we 
do not understand in a practical way that fraternal charity 
is nothing other than the extension of the love that we 
ought to have for God. This love, essentially supernatural 
and theological, must extend to all our brothers. Therefore 
we should consider (1) why the love of God ought to 
extend to our neighbor and (2) how to practice fraternal 

Why the Love of God Ought to Extend 
Also to Our Neighbor 

We must recognize that our nature leads us to love those 
who do us good, and to hate those who do us evil, while 



leaving us indifferent toward the others. Before the coming 
of Christ, the Pharisees taught (Mt. 5, 43): " You must 
love your neighbor "; but they added: " Hate your enemy." 
Our Lord says: " Love your enemies and pray for those 
who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of our 
Father in heaven, for He causes His sun to rise on bad men 
as well as good, and His rain to fall on honest and dishonest 
men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right 
have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do 
as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for 
your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even 
the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore 
be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect " (Mt. 5, 

The fraternal charity demanded of us does not belong 
to the natural order like the fraternity that can exist 
between pagans; rather, it is essentially of the supernatural 
order. Natural love makes us love our neighbor for the 
benefits that we have received from him or for his good 
qualities. Charity, on the other hand, makes us love our 
neighbor for God, because he is a son of God or is called 
to become one. 

Is it possible for us to love men with the same love 
with which we love God? Even with the same divine love? 
The strictest theology responds with a " yes," and explains 
this to us with a very simple example. He who deeply loves 
a friend, also loves die sons because he loves their father; 
and he loves the sons with a true love which, in case of 
need, he also tries to demonstrate. 

Therefore, if all men are sons of God or at least called 
to become so, we ought to love them all, and love them 
in the measure that we love our common Father. To love 
our neighbor in a supernatural way it is sufficient to look 
at him with the eyes of faith and to remember that, though 
he differs from us in condition and character, he is still 
born, like us, not only of flesh, of blood, and of the will 



of man, but of God (Jn. 1, 13). Or, at least, he is called 
to be born to the life of God, to participate in the divine 
nature and eternal beatitude. Hence both of us belong to 
the same family of God. How, then, can I not love him if 
I truly love God? But if I do not love him, yet pretend 
to love God, I certainly am lying (I Jn. 4, 20). If, on the 
other hand, I love him with this love, it is a sign that I 
love God since the love of God is the same love that is 
directed to the true supernatural reality of my neighbor. 
In other words, I love him because he is a son of God 
and a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, because the 
Holy Spirit dwells or wishes to dwell in him. I love him 
because he is destined to become, like me, a living stone of 
the heavenly Jerusalem and, perhaps, a more precious and 
better worked stone. I love in him the realization of the 
divine idea that rules his destiny, and I can love him with 
a divine love because I love him for the glory that he 
will eternally give to God. 

Sometimes the worldly will object: " But does this really 
mean loving man? Is this not rather loving only God and 
Christ in him? Man ought to be loved for himself." First 
of all, it might be mentioned that man as man cannot 
claim the right to a divine love. In reality, however, 
charity loves not only God in man but also man in God 
and for God because it loves what man ought to become, 
namely, an eternal part of the Mystical Body of Christ. 
Moreover, charity does all in its power so that man may 
be able to attain his true destiny. Also it loves what he 
already is through grace. If he does not have grace, charity 
loves his nature, not insofar as it is hostile to grace in 
consequence of original sin but insofar as it is capable of 
receiving grace. Charity loves man in himself, with the 
same love with which it loves God. Ultimately it loves 
him for God, for the glory he is called to give Him. 

If this is so, it follows that we ought to love all men. 
All are, in fact, neighbors similar to ourselves, because all 



are created to the image of God and called to be part of 
His family and enjoy the same glory. Therefore, it is clear 
that we ought to love those also who are naturally indif- 
ferent to us, and even our enemies, because they do not 
cease, by this reason, from being sons of God or at least 
called to be such. Moreover, we ought to be disposed to 
help our enemies, at least if we should see them in a situa- 
tion where they are reduced to a condition of extreme 
necessity and in urgent need of our help. This is a precept. 
When it is not a case of extreme need, Our Lord counsels 
us to help them. 

Our charity should not know limits; it cannot exclude 
anyone on earth, in purgatory, or in heaven. It stops only 
before hell. In fact, only the damned cannot be loved by 
charity because they no longer have the capacity of becom- 
ing sons of God, and, since they hate Him eternally and 
have neither the capacity nor the desire to be lifted up, they 
can no longer draw our compassion. Except for the unques- 
tionable case of the damned, we ought to exercise our 
charity toward all, because charity knows no other limits 
than those of the very love in the heart of God. 

We ought to love our neighbor as ourselves, that is, 
not for self-interest or pleasure, but desiring for him, as 
for ourselves, grace and glory which will be the glory of 
God. We should not, however, love him more than our- 
selves. We must prefer our own salvation to that of others. 
We cannot put ourselves at a distance from God to save 
our neighbor, although we may die for his salvation. Indeed, 
sometimes we have the obligation to do so, as when he is 
entrusted to us. 

Charity, far from destroying natural love, raises it to 
the infinite, since it respects the natural order as it came 
from the hands of God. First of all, we ought to love 
God above every other thing, then our souls, then our 
neighbor, and lastly, our body. God wishes to reign in 
our heart, but He does not intend thereby to exclude all 



other affection that can be subordinated to that given to 
Him. On the contrary, He elevates it, making it grow 
daily in proportion to our progress in charity. 

This fraternal charity should be like the love of God, 
not only affective but effective. It is enough to remember 
the example of the saints. St. Dominic sold his books to 
feed the poor and wished to sell himself as a slave to ransom 
a prisoner. The lives of the saints, like that of Our Lord, 
were a continual act of fraternal charity. Like their Master, 
they loved their brothers even to the cross, even to 
martyrdom. They took the saying of the Lord literally: 
" Love one another as I have loved you." To announce 
the Gospel to their brothers they faced the worst sufferings. 

How to Practice Fraternal Charity 

The occasions that could tempt us to be lacking in 
fraternal charity are always present, even in a monastery 
or convent. The souls that one must live with are certainly 
chosen souls, but only to a certain point. 

Whenever persons see each other from morning to night 
throughout the years, in the most varied states of mind and 
conditions — in sickness and in health, in pain and in 
joy — one cannot help but notice that together with his 
many virtues, his confrere also carries some true moral 
infirmities. A monastery is not yet heaven; it is only the 
novitiate of heaven, a school of perfection. Even if all the 
defects would disappear, the occasions for bruises and little 
conflicts would still exist because of the diversity of feeling, 
character, education, and because of the nervous tension 
that derives from such an intense life. They would exist 
also by reason of the fact that, while Our Lord seeks to 
unite, the devil seeks to divide. 

Providence intentionally permits the existence of many 
occasions so that we may humble ourselves and practice 
fraternal charity. " It is in weakness that virtue is made 



perfect " (II Cor. 12, 9). Our own miseries humble us, 
those of our neighbor make us practice virtue. Only in 
heaven will the causes of discord completely disappear 
because there all the blessed will see in God, in His beatific 
light, what they should desire and do. 

Here below, even the saints sometimes can be found 
disagreeing and inflexibly defending their own opposite 
points of view with the conviction that it is a question of 
the will of God. It so happened with St. Philip Neri and 
St. Charles Borromeo that they could not agree concerning 
the Oratorians of Milan. Thus, one had to recall his Orato- 
rians to Rome, while the other instituted the Oblates of 
Mary at Milan. 

In the midst of such difficulties as well as ever-recurring 
new ones, how can one practice fraternal charity? Two 
things are necessary: (1) to look upon one's neighbor with 
the eyes of faith, that is, to discover in him the supernatural 
being that we ought to love; and (2) to love him by 
bearing with him, making ourselves useful and asking God 
for the union of hearts. 

First of all, we must look at our neighbor with the 
eyes of faith. Just as the love of God is born from faith 
in Him, so it is with charity toward our neighbor. It is 
necessary, therefore, to look at our neighbor with the gaze 
of faith in order to discover in him that supernatural reality 
which we ought to love. Since that which is divine in him 
is sometimes deeply hidden from our view — not by faults 
that are grave in the eyes of God, but by defects of 
temperament that irritate us and that subsist despite 
virtue — in order to see the divine in him, we must have 
a pure and attentive eye. We will see it, if we deserve to 
see it. 

Just as the living water of prayer is not given except 
after the purification of renunciation, in the same way it 
is not granted us to see God in souls until we have 


become detached from ourselves. This is so, not only that 
we may see the beauty of a soul despite the differences 
of character, but also that we may simply be able to think 
to ourselves every time we come in contact with another: 
" This is a soul loved by God, in whom the Holy Spirit 
dwells; he or she is a member of the Mystical Body of 
Christ, called with me to the same beatitude, and, perhaps, 
to a level higher than mine." 

This treats of a very simple thought, and yet, what 
Our Lord wants of us is found here. Jesus does not expect 
us to deceive ourselves in judging our neighbor. In fact, it is 
only supernatural benevolence that will enable us to see 
everything correctly. Rash judgment is, however, all too 
often set in opposition to this way of acting. The most 
frequent reproach that Our Lord directs towards us for 
lack of charity to our neighbor is concerned explicitly with 
rash judgment: " Do not judge " (Mt. 7, 1). Rash judgment 
is essentially evil-minded. It is the decision of a judge who 
attributes to himself a jurisdiction that he does not have 
over the soul of his brothers. It is the verdict of a bribed 
judge, implacable, without mercy, who knows only how 
to condemn. 

We see a slight indication of evil and immediately we 
affirm that evil exists in an evident way. We see two and 
affirm four. All this stems from egoism and pride. Let it 
be noted, further, that if it is a question of grave matter 
we commit a mortal sin. 1 

Our Lord is very severe in dealing with those who form 
rash judgments because they commit a double fault, against 
justice and against charity. They attribute to themselves a 

1 St. Thomas says, "If we cannot avoid the suspicion, we should at 
least refrain our judgments, that is, not formulate decisive and irrevocable 
judgments " (S. T. II II, Q. 60, a. 3). Cajetan and many others think 
that rash suspicion, when limited to doubt or opinion, is not in itself a 
mortal sin. Banez, Medina, Billuart are of the contrary opinion. 



jurisdiction which they do not possess. In order to judge 
one should possess the testimony of a trial, but when it is 
a question of judging the interior intentions of our neighbor, 
we cannot have the testimony of a trial. In this case the 
only judge is God, who sees into the intimate part of the 
conscience, speaks to it, knows its ignorance, its errors, its 
difficulties, its temptations, its good will and its repentances. 

Some persons pretend to know better than ourselves 
what we should say to God, and they set themselves up 
as our judges. " Without being aware of it," says St. Cather- 
ine of Siena, " we wish to dictate laws to the Holy Spirit 
and impose our way on other souls; often our judgment 
is mistaken, and what is worse in the eyes of God, whatever 
may be the appearances of the benevolence that we seek 
to demonstrate, this judgment is evil-minded and comes 
from our egoism and pride." Instead of seeing our neighbor 
as a son of God, called to the same beatitude as ourselves, 
we see in him a rival, whom we want to overturn and 

We should pay attention and beat our breasts, because 
Our Lord said: " Do not judge, and you will not be judged; 
because the judgments you give are the judgments you will 
get " (Mt. 7, 1-2). And how can we dare act like judges? 
Do we wish to take the speck from the eye of our brother, 
while we have a beam in our own? (Mt. 7, 3). And who 
can tell us that we might not fall this evening into a much 
graver offence than what we are condemning? 

But, someone may say, if the evil is evident, does God 
then ask us to deceive ourselves? St. Catherine of Siena 
responds: " We must not see it to judge it and to murmur, 
but to have compassion and to assume its weight before 
God, according to the example of Our Lord." This is 
charity. If we restrain our rash judgment, we will accustom 
ourselves to seeing our neighbor with the eyes of faith, 
with a pure eye which is the very eye of God, and we 
will see in our neighbor the temple of the Holy Spirit, 



or, at least, the soul which He wants to approach and in 
which He wants to dwell. 

It is not sufficient, however, to contemplate in the light 
of faith the supernatural being of our neighbor. We must 
also love him, bear with him, make ourselves useful, and 
desire a union of our hearts. 

First of all it is necessary to bear the defects of our 
neighbor. What afflicts the saints to a great degree are the 
offences made to God, while what afflicts us more and 
makes us lose our patience are external defects, which often 
are a small thing in the eyes of God. We endure some 
sinners without any difficulty, while certain virtuous persons 
make us exercise an enormous patience. 

God wills that we bear with one another in charity. 
" Bear with one another charitably " (Eph. 4, 2). He does 
not want us to be scandalized or irritated with the evil He 
permits. He does not want our zeal to be transformed into 
impatience or bitterness. And He does not want us to 
complain about others, coming to the point of being 
persuaded that the ideal is in us or at least that we love 
it while others do not. In short, He does not want us to 
pray the prayer of the Pharisee. 

We should bear with one another without being scandal- 
ized by the evil that God permits in order to draw a 
greater good out of it. The art of God consists in drawing 
good from evil. It is precisely the scandal of evil that has 
made partially sterile so many attempted efforts to carry 
out reforms in the Church and in religious orders. We 
should support one another. Indeed, we should do something 
more. As St. Paul says (Gal. 6, 2), " You should carry 
each other's troubles, " just as Our Lord carried the burdens 
of us all on His shoulders. 

Perfection, however, does not consist only of bearing 
with one another but also in returning good for evil. Before 
all else we must give good example which edifies and we 



must pray. When we are tempted to judge our neighbor 
severely, to be scandalized or irritated, we should pray and 
light will shine in us and in the soul for whom we are 
praying. We will draw the blessings of God upon him. 
We should also pray for all the members of the community 
and for our superiors. Finally we should place ourselves at 
the service of all with humility and discretion. Then, with 
the aid of prayer, the union of hearts as well as the desire 
of Our Lord will be realized: " That they may be one as 
We are one " (Jn. 17, 22). 

In the first centuries this union characterized the life 
of the Church in the world. An intimate union existed 
between the Hebrew convert, the Greek, and the Roman; 
between the ignorant and the wise; between the rich and 
the poor. All formed one single family, that of the sons 
of God, and earthly goods were held in common. The 
disciples of Christ were truly recognized by the sign that 
He Himself had given them. The pagans were forced to 
exclaim: " Look how they love one another! " 

With the propagation of the Church into the whole 
world, this profound union and intimate communion could 
no longer be maintained in the measure of earlier times. 
God wished, however, that such an example be preserved 
in the midst of men. This is one of the reasons for the 
institution of monasteries. Unity forms the truth, the 
goodness, and the beauty of a monastery. A disunited 
community is a living lie, according to the saying of 
St. John (I Jn. 4, 20): " Anyone who says, ' I love God', 
and hates his brother, is a liar." 

In a monastery all is in common to manifest externally 
the union of hearts: the same dwelling, the same habit, 
the same rule, the same food, the same prayer in the same 
church, and, above all, the same Communion at the Sacred 
Table where all are nourished by the same body of Christ. 
But if the souls are not united, all is a lie before God, 
before men to whom they are proposed as an example, and 



also, before themselves. A disunited community is sterile, 
and it wounds the heart of God, who takes away His 

If, on the other hand, with silence, abnegation, the 
spirit of faith and charity, all the hearts are united, then all 
the souls are truly like the members of one same body. 
Each acts for all and all act for each. There is only one life, 
only one soul. It is no exaggeration to say " only one 
soul," because the Holy Spirit, Who vivifies all these souls, 
really inspires them and makes them act. Not in vain did 
Our Lord say: " That they may be one as We are one " 
(Jn. 17, 22). 

The Father and the Son are one through unity of nature, 
of thought, and of love. All Their activity has its termination 
in Their common and reciprocal love: in the Holy Spirit. 
So too in a fervent and united community, the souls ought 
to be entirely one through the unity of supernatural life, 
thought, and love. Their bond ought to be the same one 
that unites Father and Son, the common Spirit, that animates 
all of them. 

O Soul of the Mystical Body, who vivifies the humanity 
of Christ, the head, and every one of His members, reveal 
to us the profound life and unity of this Body that is 
glorious in heaven, suffers in purgatory, and struggles here 
below. Make us understand that even now we belong to 
the family of the saints and the family of God, and, despite 
the diversity of character, have us love one another as 
Christ loved us. Amen. 



If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine, 
let him renounce himself and take up his 
cross and follow Me. — Mt. 16, 24 
We always bear about in our body the 
mortification of Jesus, so that the life 
also of Jesus may be made manifest in 
our body. — II Cor. 4, 10; cf. Comm. of 

We have seen that our spiritual progress depends on our 
cooperation, which consists first of all in charity. Hence, 
we have the obligation of responding with love to God's 
love. We have already considered that this charity is not 
to be measured by the sensible satisfaction that sometimes 
accompanies devotion, but by two essential signs: death to 
sin and configuration to Christ through the increase of the 
Christian virtues. These are the two manifestations of pro- 
gress in charity which we are to study now. 

First of all Our Lord demands death to sin when He 
says: 8 If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine, let him 
renounce himself and take up his cross." " Let him renounce 
himself " is the law of mortification that we must impose 
on ourselves. " Let him carry his cross " is the obligation 
to bear patiently the trials Our Lord Himself imposes on 
us to purify us. 

To make us understand that renunciation is not an 
end but rather a means that leads to light and an ever 
more ardent charity, the masters of the spiritual life have 



reserved the name " active purification " for mortification 
and that of " passive purification " for all the crosses that 
are sent us by God. Now I should like to talk to you in 
general about mortifications or * active purification." After- 
wards we shall study it in greater detail, insisting on the 
spirit of the three vows of religion which regulate in a 
stable way mortification in our life. 

In recent years, Naturalism, under the name of Mod- 
ernism, attempted to depreciate mortification and in partic- 
ular the religious vows, presenting them as a hindrance 
to the free development of the religious personality. They 
ask why we speak so much of mortification if Christianity 
is primarily a doctrine of life. Why speak so much of 
renunciation if Christianity is to engage the whole of human 
activity, instead of destroying it? Why speak so much of 
obedience if Christianity is a doctrine of liberty? 

Why not appreciate our natural activity? Is it that our 
nature is not good? Was it not created by God? Our 
passions themselves as St. Thomas teaches, following 
Aristotle, are neither good nor bad. They are forces to be 
used. It is not necessary to mortify them but only moderate 
and regulate them. Why fight our own judgment and our 
will so much? This means falling into scruples and placing 
ourselves in such a state of slavery and dependence that 
we destroy all initiative, personality, and liberty within 
ourselves. It means belittling and degrading man under the 
pretext of divinizing him. Why condemn the life of the 
world since it is in this life that God has placed us and 
which we must lead? 

The value of religious life is to be measured from its 
influence on social life. For it to exercise this influence it 
must not be hindered by an excessive preoccupation about 
renunciation, mortification, poverty, and obedience. On the 
contrary, we must allow free development to our spirit 
of initiative and all our natural aspirations. This will permit 
us to understand the men of our age and to come into 



contact with the world, which we must not so much 
combat as improve. 

This preceding doctrine has been taught for some years 
in several religious circles. But, as always, the tree is 
judged by its fruit. We have seen that these innovating 
apostles, wishing excessively to please the world, instead 
of converting it allowed themselves to be converted by it; 
instead of assimilating souls to Christ, they let themselves 
be assimilated by the world, and little by little the salt 
became insipid. 

We have all observed the consequences of this attitude. 
We have seen these apostles deny the effects of original sin 
and, something even more grave, slowly forget the infinite 
malice of sin as an offense against God. They have considered 
sin only insofar as it is an evil for man, a visible and 
palpable evil here below in society. Then they began to 
ignore the gravity of the sins of the spirit: unbelief, 
indocility toward the Holy See, presumption, and pride. 
In certain circles the gravest sin of all was considered to 
be abstention from social works, and, whatever might be 
its motive, it was always imputed to egoism. Meanwhile, 
true religion, and particularly the contemplative life, came 
to be considered as the destiny of all the unfit, of those 
incapable of any exterior activity. These apostles of a new 
kind, after having misunderstood the infinite gravity of sin, 
slowly came to forget the sublime loftiness of the supernatu- 
ral end to which we are called. Instead of speaking to us 
about heaven, about the vision of God, about configuration 
to the Word, they began to propose to us a vague moral ideal 
which, though colored by religion, seemed to disregard a 
future life and suppress the radical opposition between 
paradise and hell. Thus this new doctrine manifests its 
principle: Naturalism, the denial of the supernatural. 



Necessity of Mortification 

It is clear that these innovations have nothing in common 
with the doctrine of Our Lord and the Apostles, nor with 
the life of Christ and the saints. Our Lord did not come 
into this world for enjoyment and to perform a human work, 
but to do the will of His Father and realize the divine work 
of redemption which He accomplished by dying on the 
Cross. This was the aim of His whole life. 

The saints have imitated Him. Let it suffice to recall the 
flagellations of St. Dominic; the mortifications of St. Cather- 
ine of Siena who, to conquer herself, forced herself to 
drink the blood of the wounds of the cancerous; what 
St. Antoninus did when he threw the key to his peniten- 
tial shirt of iron into the Arno River so that he could no 
longer take it off. Remember St. Rose of Lima, Blessed 
Henry Suso, St. Louis Bertrand, and closer to us, Father 
Lacordaire. Did they give up the law of mortification? 

Our Lord said: " If anyone wishes to follow Me, let 
him deny himself." And again: " In order to sprout and 
reproduce, the grain of wheat must die "; " He who refuses 
to die to himself and loves his soul in a manner that is 
too sensate, will lose it "; " What does it benefit a man to 
gain the universe, the esteem of the world and fame, if 
he then loses his soul? " 

St. Paul: original sin and its consequences. St. Paul does 
not only say that we must regulate and moderate our 
passions, but adds that we must punish our body to reduce 
it to servitude (I Cor. 9, 27). In our members is a law 
contrary to reason, that is, the flesh has desires in opposition 
to those of the spirit. He goes still further: " You cannot 
belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent 
passions and desires " (Gal. 5, 24). The flesh or, as the 
Apostle says, " the old man " is not only the body. It is 
the whole man with his physical and moral life as born 
from Adam. 



This natural man always remains in us here below, even 
after the grace of Christ has raised us up again, healed us, 
and has begun in us the work of deification, that is, of 
configuration to the Word. This natural man does not 
represent pure human nature as it came from the hands 
of God, but the erring nature oriented toward the earth, 
hungry for its own goods, desirous of its pleasures. It is 
man dominated by his immense unconscious egoism, dream- 
ing of ultimate happiness here below. He is the so-called 
" go-getter " who desires only status. We find him repre- 
sented everywhere, in all ranks, even among those who 
make profession of renunciation and humility. 

This " old man " always lives in our nature devoid 
of grace. We must mortify him, reducing him in practice 
to impotence and sterility, not permitting him to bear his 
fruit, namely, sin. We live two fives, two contradictory 
lives, hostile and incompatible. One of the two must 
disappear that the other may develop. 

It is true that our passions by their nature are neither 
good nor evil. They are forces to utilize, not destroy. Yet, 
after original sin our nature is inclined to evil, and it is 
this persistent inclination that we must definitely kill, 
mortify. In this Christian temperance differs from the purely 
natural temperance that the world knows. From this it can 
be deduced that if the dogma of original sin and its conse- 
quences forms an essential part of the doctrine of Christian- 
ity, then mortification is also an essential part. 

Actual sin and its consequences. It is not only the con- 
sequences of original sin that impose mortification on us, 
but also actual sin and its consequences. Repeated actual 
sin generates vices. Although absolution, in restoring grace, 
gives us back the supernatural virtues opposed to these vices, 
these virtues are almost inoperative in us because their 
very unfolding and development remain so impeded by the 
bad dispositions that the vices leave behind, bad dispositions 



that remain in the temperament and often are almost 

Not only must we moderate and regulate these conse- 
quences of sin but also destroy them since they constitute 
one of the most dangerous ferments that we carry within 
ourselves. Naturalism pays little attention to this because 
it ignores both the infinite gravity of sin as an offense 
against God and sin's profound consequences for the 
interior life of the soul in this life and the next. Since 
Naturalism is essentially superficial, it is content to establish 
a shallow harmony between spirit and body, between pride, 
egoism, and love of duty. It is not concerned with extirpat- 
ing the remnants of sin which are a continual source of 
innumerable venial sins: sensuality, sloth, laxity, slander, 
calumny, rash judgments, pride, unbelief, presumption, and 
forgetfulness of God. 

When venial sin is considered as something insignificant, 
when " it is drunk in like water," how can one be concerned 
with mortification or renunciation? If, on the other hand, 
sin is considered as the greatest of all evils, then mortifi- 
cation, which is basically none other than death to sin, 
must be an essential part of Christianity. Therefore, the 
true Christian understands that his first duty is that of doing 
penance, that is, detesting sin, feeling regret for it, avoiding 
it, and expiating it. This part of mortification is evidently 
necessary for all. Moreover, the Christian must practice 
humility, recognizing that alone, without the help of God, 
he can do nothing for his own salvation; that all he has 
from himself is infinitely inferior to what other souls have 
through grace. Hence, he must despise himself, that is, 
despise all in himself that is not from God but which is 
instead a deformation of the divine work. 

Further, as the saints say and as St. Catherine of Siena 
continually repeated, the Christian must hate himself for 
love of divine justice. In other words, he must hate all 
in himself that is not from God and that injures the natural 



rights God has over his thought, his heart, his body, and 
his soul. He ought to be armed with a holy hatred for the 
remnants of sin that remain in him, and, as St. Paul says, 
crucify the flesh with its concupiscences. 

Such are the rigorous laws against sin in the Gospel 
doctrine, unknown to the pagan world and the greatest 
philosophers. This asceticism, preached by John the Baptist 
even prior to Our Lord to prepare souls for His coming, 
is an essential part of Christianity. 

Sublime Loftiness of the Supernatural End 

There is, however, another reason for mortification 
that is also unknown to Naturalism. It is the sublime 
loftiness of the supernatural end to which Our Lord calls 
us. It compels us to detach ourselves from all that is 
earthly, all that makes us tend toward purely human 
works; it obliges us to fight against all the tendencies of 
the spirit and the heart that would absorb totally the 
soul's activity to the serious damage of the life of grace. 

Our Lord imposed mortification on us the day on 
which in the Sermon on the Mount, He proclaimed the 
incomparable superiority of the New Law, the Law of 
Love, over the Old Law and that which was purely natural: 
" If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the Scribes and 
Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven " 
(Mt. 5, 20). 

Mortification of all the feelings of anger, antipathy, and 
hatred. " You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: 
' You must not kill'. . . But I say this to you: anyone 
who is angry with his brother will answer for it before 
the court ... So then, if you are bringing your offering 
to the altar and there remember that your brother has 
something against you, leave your offering there before 
the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first ..." 
(Mt. 5, 21-24). 



Mortification of the senses and of the heart. " You have 
learnt how it was said: ' You must not commit adultery. ' 
But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, 
he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 
If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and 
throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one 
part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. 
And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off 
and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose 
one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell " 
(Mt. 5, 27-30). 

Our Lord next prohibits divorce, thus imposing morti- 
fication in Christian marriage. When the partners cease to 
please one another they are, nevertheless, obliged to remain 
united, a mortification sometimes harsher than that of the 

When it comes to the actual duties of charity, Jesus 
imposes a mortification of the heart, of one's judgment, 
and one's will on a level which the greatest philosophers 
never knew, and which many Christians, even good ones, 
ignore. It transforms the practice of the virtue of justice, 
absorbing it into charity. In our dealings with our brothers 
we must think not only of their rights and ours, but we 
must always be concerned with their soul, doing all possible 
to make it better, yielding, always yielding so that their 
soul may be illumined. 

" You have learnt how it was said: ' Eye for eye 
and tooth for tooth. ' But I say this to you: offer the 
wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits 
you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if 
a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let 
him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to 
go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who 
asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away. 
You have learnt how it was said: ' You must love your 
neighbor ' and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: 



love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; 
in this way you will be sons of your Father in Heaven, 
for He causes His sun to rise on bad men as well as good, 
and His rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. 
For if you love those who love you, what right have you 
to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, 
do they not? " (Mt. 5, 38-46). 

Why, then, this mortification of the senses, of the 
passions, of the heart? Why this mortification of one's will 
and judgment with the practice of Christian justice and 
charity? Because it is a question of being raised to a life 
infinitely higher than the natural life. You are not to be as 
the pagans. " You must therefore be perfect just as your 
heavenly Father is perfect " (Mt. 5, 48). Take care not to 
accomplish purely human works. You would receive here 
below only an exclusively human reward. Take care not 
to practice virtue to gain the esteem of men. You would 
receive your recompense here below but you would not 
have any in heaven (cf. Mt. 6, 1). 

The life which we must attain is the life of the resurrected 
Christ, that is, a life which has passed through death. That 
life implies, not a superficial harmony, but that profound 
harmony between body and soul, between the soul and 
God, which was the privilege of the state of original justice 
and will be granted in the state of glory. We should be 
distrustful of a superficial harmony that is attained without 
any hard renunciation or mortification; it only seems real. 
Within us opposing principles struggle without our know- 
ledge. An egoism and an unconscious pride are developed 
which, in certain circumstances, can be the source of very 
serious offences, capable of dividing and killing the soul. 

We should be most distrustful of that superficial harmony 
because, unless we acquire here below a profound harmony 
(supposing that we avoid mortal sin) we shall have to 
acquire it later, and through constraint, in purgatory. Those 
who do not want to experience mortification here below 



will be forced to experience it in the next life. These, 
then are the two principal motives for mortification: the 
consequences of sin and the elevation to a supernatural end. 
In other words, we must practice mortification out of hatred 
for sin and for the love of God, our ultimate end. 

Ways of Mortification 

Knowing why we should mortify ourselves is not enough. 
We must also know how to mortify ourselves. 

All the treatises on asceticism distinguish between ex- 
terior and interior mortification. Both are necessary. In fact, 
the mortification of the senses — of sight, hearing, taste, 
smell, and touch, the doors through which temptation can 
penetrate — would be of no help unless there were also 
mortifications of the imagination and the memory. The 
imagination leads us to empty fantasies with which the 
devil can make a fool of us, and the memory reminds us 
more often of the faults of our neighbor than of his merits. 

We must mortify our hearts. The Lord is not pleased 
with a divided heart. He wants to reign in us. This certainly 
does not exclude or forbid other affections; indeed, it's just 
the opposite. But every affection must be subordinated to 
His love, if it is to be truly supernatural and helpful for 
eternal salvation. 

Furthermore, we must mortify our own judgment, often 
defiled by prejudices and often a source of stubbornness, 
extravagant ideas, and singularity of conduct. Above all, 
we have to mortify our own will and egoism, which make 
us prisoners of our own selves. This is the worst type of 
slavery, often unconscious and therefore the more dangerous. 
It retards any progress toward God and renders our best 
actions defective. It is necessary to make this egoism die 
because we are not the center and the end of ourselves; 
we must conform our will so perfectly to the divine will 
that they can never be separated. 



Among all these tendencies that put us at a distance 
from the love of God, it is important to discern the one 
which for us constitutes the gravest danger, our predom- 
inant fault. Against this our efforts must be directed. 

Let's suppose that we have done all possible to mortify 
our senses, our passions, and our heart, and that we have 
made a firm resolution to give ourselves completely to the 
interior life. But then, how many defects still exist in us 
and what a distance separates us from the religious ideal! 
To make ourselves aware of them, it would be necessary 
to read often the description St. John of the Cross gives of 
the defects of those who are beginning to dedicate them- 
selves to the interior life. He finds in them the seven capital 
sins applied in a spiritual way, defects that can easily be 
reduced to two, spiritual sensuality and spiritual pride. 

Spiritual sensuality, under which the Saint lists greed, 
lust, avarice, and spiritual sloth, consists of allowing oneself 
to be led astray by the sensible consolation poured into the 
soul at the beginning of the interior life. Many, misled by 
the attractiveness of consolations, seek these delightful 
affections rather than purity of heart and true devotion. 
They read all the books that treat this subject, spending 
more time on this than on performing meritorious acts. 
Under the pretext of a spiritual purpose, they have friend- 
ships with some people, much less for the glory of God 
than for the pleasure of talking about their feelings. They 
are never content with the gifts of God. And if the 
exercises of piety do not bring them consolations, they 
either abandon prayer out of laziness or, to regain what 
they have lost, they exhaust themselves by the weight 
of their penances, which they perform without discretion, 
without rule, and without obedience. Thus they have put 
themselves in a state of exhaustion in which they are prone 
to all sorts of temptations. 

Is it necessary, then, to reject sensible devotion? Not 
at all! It is useful for our spiritual progress, especially in 



the beginning. Our Lord gives us the milk of consolation 
before nourishing us with the hard bread of tribulation. 
Yet, this sensible devotion is to be loved only as a means, 
not for itself but for God; and loved in the measure that 
it is useful for our eternal salvation. Therefore, we should 
not bewail excessively when Our Lord decides to deprive 
us of it. 

Another defect of beginners (and how many among us 
always remain beginners!) is spiritual pride, a secret pride 
that comes from the fact that we reflect too much on our 
own fervor, being complacent in our selves and our actions, 
and easily induced to speak of spiritual things, making 
ourselves masters rather than disciples. We judge others 
and condemn them in our heart because they do not 
practice devotion in the same way we do. And so, in the 
end, we are acting like the Pharisee who became proud of 
his good works and despised the publican. " Often the devil 
incites these beginners to fervor, and inspires in them the 
desire to undertake some good works in order to feed their 

" This spiritual pride generates spiritual envy. The soul 
becomes saddened and is bothered by the good of those 
who surpass it in virtue. It can scarcely bear seeing them 
praised, and seeks to neutralize, as much as possible, the 
effect of the praises that are so liberally bestowed on them. 
The soul would like to be preferred to all. 

" How contrary all this is to charity, which instead 
always takes joy in the spiritual good of those who are 
superior to us, inducing us to imitate them and not to be 
• superiority " (St. John 

Here there is ample matter for mortification. We must 
be convinced that we shall have to fight to the end, because 
only in heaven will all these seeds of sin die. 

The spirit of mortification was taught by Our Lord 
when He said: " When you fast do not put on a gloomy 



look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men 
know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had 
their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head 
and wash your face, so that no one will know you are 
fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in 
secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in 
secret will reward you " (Mt. 6, 16-18). Our mortification 
should be joyous because it should be inspired primarily 
by the love of God. It is, in fact, for Him — to go 
toward Him — that we wish to destroy all seeds of sin in 
us. Every act of mortification, therefore, should be as a step 
of love toward God. 

If we, then, elevate ourselves still more, love becomes 
adoration, and the manifestation of adoration owed to 
God is sacrifice, Christian mortification. What we contem- 
plate in the saints is their sacrifice offered in union with the 
sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross and on the altar. The 
flagellations of our own St. Dominic, for his sins and those 
of the faithful to whom he had to preach, were a sacrifice 
of expiation and also a propitiatory sacrifice to draw the 
grace of God upon souls. Above all, they were a sacrifice 
of adoration whereby the Saint reduced himself to nothing 
before God to acknowledge more fully that He is " He 
Who is " and that we, by ourselves, are nothing. 

Effects of Mortification 

Contrary to what Naturalism affirms, mortification leads 
to life — to the true life that comes to us from God and 
Christ and not from our fallen nature, our disordered 
passions, or from our pride. Christian mortification, far 
from debasing our personality, exalts it to such a point 
that it renders us independent of the world, its maxims, 
its theories, its fashions, its foolishness, and its snares. 
It exalts our soul above everything that is created, permit- 



ting us to depend only on ourselves and on God. In the 
measure that it makes our dependence on God closer, it 
develops our personality, rendering it more like the divine 
personality of Christ. What personality is more marvelous 
than that of the saints? It goes beyond the limits of time 
and space, and after the passing of centuries it imposes 
itself on the admiration of the crowds without the help 
of any human means but solely through the superiority 
of wisdom and charity. 

Mortification, then, does not constrain but liberates, 
because it alone sets us free from the slavery of our passions 
and public opinion, and, above all, from the slavery of 
egoism. This last is the worst type of slavery, the most 
difficult to destroy. More than any other it paralyzes our 
efforts toward the good. Mortification, furthermore, far 
from suffocating holy initiative and holy boldness, incites 
them since it teaches us not to rely upon ourselves but 
upon God. If there is a fruitful social endeavor, it is 
certainly that of the saints, always nourished by holy hatred 
of self. Who can even measure the social influence exerted 
by such a humble daughter of St. Dominic as was St. Cath- 
erine of Siena? Humility, abnegation, and renunciation 
hollowed out in her an abyss. Divine grace filled this up and 
she desired nothing other than to overflow on every side as 
an inexhaustible fountain of living water. Rivers of living 
water poured out from within her, because she was no 
longer Catherine of Siena. Her heart, her judgment, and 
her will had given way to the heart, judgment, and will 
of Christ. 

Therefore, we should love mortification, meditate often 
on its motives — the consequences of sin in us and the 
sublime loftiness of the supernatural end to which Our 
Lord calls us. We should put it into practice without 
compromise, especially as regards our predominant fault. 
We should do this always with joy, with the interior joy 



of love, and always in the spirit of adoration. We should 
learn to immolate ourselves every day so that Our Lord 
may live in us and grant us to be other Christs who cause 
souls to be born to the divine life. 

May the Lord and the saints help us in this hard work 
which alone leads to true life! 



The Son of Man came not to be served 
but to serve, and to give His life as a 
ransom for many. — Mt. 20, 28 

Since we are speaking primarily about the moral virtues 
that have a special affinity with the theological virtues and 
the life of union with God, it is necessary to reflect on 
what humility should be in those who wish to become 
proficient. The importance and nature of this Christian 
virtue demonstrate to us the gap that separates the acquired 
virtues described by pagan philosophers from the infused 
virtues of which the Gospel speaks. 

Throughout the entire Christian tradition this virtue 
has been considered the foundation of the spiritual life. 
It is the foundation insofar as it separates us from pride 
which, according to Sacred Scripture, is the principle of all 
sin because it separates us from God. Often humility has 
been compared to the foundation that must be excavated 
in order to construct a building. The higher the desired 
building, the deeper the foundation has to be. The two 
outstanding columns of the temple to be raised are faith 

Certainly humility should repress pride under all its 
forms, including intellectual and spiritual pride. Yet, the 
principal and most elevated act of humility is not precisely 
the actual repression of acts of pride. In fact, it is clear 
that in Our Lord and in the Blessed Virgin there was never 
a movement of pride to repress. There was in them, 



however, the uninterrupted, eminent practice of the virtue 
of humility. What, then, is the distinctive act of humility 
with respect to God and neighbor? 

Humility with Respect to God 

The distinctive act of humility consists in bowing down 
toward the ground (from the Latin " humus " from which 
the name of this virtue is derived). To speak without 
employing a metaphor, this unique act consists in abasing 
oneself before God and before that which is of God in 
all creatures. To abase ourselves before the Most High 
means to recognize our inferiority, our smallness, and our 
indigence not only theoretically but also practically. Even 
in the state of innocence we would have been conscious 
of this but after sin we become aware also of our state 
of misery. 

Thus, humility is united to obedience and to religion. 
Yet, it differs from them. Obedience regards the authority 
of God and His precepts, while religion respects His ex- 
cellence and the cult due Him. Humility, in making us 
bow down toward the ground, acknowledges our smallness 
and poverty, and in this way glorifies the grandeur of 
God. It sings His glory as did the Archangel St. Michael 
when he said: " Who is like God? " 

The interior soul experiences a holy joy in reducing 
itself to nothing, so to speak, before God so that it may 
recognize in a practical way that He alone is great and that 
in comparison to His majesty all human grandeur is empty 
of truth, like a lie. Humility conceived in this manner is 
founded upon truth, especially on this truth, namely, that 
there is an infinite distance between the Creator and the 
creature. The more we realize this distance in a living and 
concrete way, the humbler we are. However elevated a 
creature may be, this chasm always remains infinite; and 
the more we elevate ourselves, the more evident this 



becomes. Hence, the most elevated is the humblest because 
he is the most illumined. The Virgin Mary is the most 
humble of all the saints, while Our Lord is much humbler 
than His Mother. 

The affinity of humility with the theological virtues 
can be seen by taking into consideration its twofold 
dogmatic foundation which was unknown to pagan philos- 
ophers. It is based, first of all, on the mystery of creation 
" ex nihilo " which the philosophers of antiquity did not 
know, at least not explicitly, yet which reason can know 
with its natural powers. We were created from nothing. 
This is the foundation of humility according to the light 
of right reason. Under this aspect it is a question of acquired 
humility. Here we are concerned particularly with infused 
humility. Such humility is based on the mystery of grace, 
on the need for actual grace in order to perform the least 
act helpful for salvation. This mystery surpasses the natural 
powers of reason and is known only by faith. Our Lord 
expressed it in these words: " Cut off from Me you can 
do nothing " (Jn. 15, 5) — in the order of salvation. 

From this certain consequences flow relative to (1) God, 
the Creator, (2) His Providence, (3) His goodness insofar 
as it is the source of grace, and (4) His goodness insofar 
as it causes forgiveness of our sins. 

(1) First of all, regarding God, the Creator, we ought 
to acknowledge not only abstractly, but practically and con- 
cretely, that we by ourselves are nothing. " My substance 
is as nothing before You, O Lord! " (Ps. 39, 6); " What 
do you have that was not given to you? " (I Cor. 4, 7). 
We were created from nothing by a " fiat " of God, who is 
sovereignly free, and we are held in existence by His 
benevolent love, without which we would be annihilated 
in an instant. Although after creation there are diverse 
beings, nevertheless, reality, perfection, wisdom, and love 
are not increased because infinite wisdom and the fullness 



of divine perfection already existed even prior to creation. 

Besides, if all that comes from God were taken away 
from our most perfect free act, nothing, strictly speaking, 
would remain any longer, since this act is not produced 
in part by us and in part by God. Rather, the whole is 
from God insofar as He is its first cause, and the whole 
is ours insofar as we are the second cause. In the same 
way, the fruit of the tree is wholly from God as the first 
cause and wholly from the tree as the second cause. This 
must be acknowledged also in practice. Without God, 
Creator and Conserver of all things, we would be non- 

(2) In the same way, without God the supreme provider, 
without His Providence that " directs all things," our life 
would be totally lacking in direction. Consequently, we 
ought to receive with humility both the general direction 
of His precepts to attain eternal life, and the particular 
direction which the Most High has chosen from eternity 
for each of us. This particular direction is manifested to us 
by our superiors — the intermediaries between God and 
us, to whose counsels we should have recourse — and 
by events, as well as by the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. 
Therefore, we should humbly accept the position, perhaps 
very modest, that God has willed for each of us from 
all eternity. 

Thus it is that in the religious life, according to the 
divine will, some ought to be like the branches of a tree, 
others like the blossoms, and still others like the roots 
hidden under the soil. Actually the roots, even if hidden, 
are more useful than the other parts since they draw from 
the soil the substance which makes the sap that is necessary 
for the nourishment of the tree. If all the roots were taken 
away the tree would die, while on the other hand it 
would not die if all the branches and blossoms were 



Humility, which induces the believer and the religious 
to accept willingly a hidden position, is very fruitful not 
only for themselves but also for others. In His life of 
sorrows, the Savior humbly sought the last place, permitted 
Barabbas to be preferred to Himself, and chose the oppro- 
brium of the Cross. Precisely for this reason in the building 
of the kingdom of God Christ became the cornerstone. 

Jesus said to them, ' Have you never read in the scrip- 
tures: It was the stone rejected by the builders that became 
the keystone. This was the Lord's doing and it is wonderful 
to see.' * (Mt. 21, 42). St. Paul writes to the Ephesians: 
" So you are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are 
citizens like all the saints, and part of God's household. 
You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets 
for its foundations, and Christ Jesus Himself for its main 
cornerstone " ( 2, 19-20). Such is solid humility, 
marvelously fruitful, which even in the most hidden places 
sings the glory of God. It is necessary, therefore, to receive 
humbly from God the special direction that He has chosen 
for us, even though it has to lead us to a profound immo- 
lation. It is God who " gives life and death. " He leads 
us from one extreme to another. He humbles us and exalts 
us as He wishes (cf. I Kgs. 2, 7). This is one of the most 
beautiful leitmotifs of the Bible. 

(3) Since we are unable to take the least step forward, 
or accomplish the least salvific or meritorious act without 
the help of actual grace, and we especially need it to perse- 
vere to the end, we should humbly ask for this grace. 

Even if we possessed an elevated degree of sanctifying 
grace and charity, ten talents for example, we would still 
have need of actual grace for the least salvific act. Particularly 
we have need of the great gift of final perseverance for a 
happy death. We should humbly and confidently ask for 
this every day in the Hail Mary. 



With St. Paul, Christian humility joyfully says: " Not 
that we are qualified in ourselves to claim anything as our 
own work: all our qualifications come from God " (II Cor. 
3, 5) and " It is for that reason that I want you to under- 
stand that on the one hand no one can be speaking under 
the influence of the Holy Spirit and say, ' Curse Jesus ', 
and on the other hand, no one can say, ' Jesus is Lord ' 
unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit " 
(I Cor. 12, 3). 

In a word, humility ought to acknowledge in a practical 
way and more each day the grandeur of God, creator and 
provider of all things, the author of grace. This humility, 
which recognizes our indigence, must be found in all the 
just. It must also be found in the innocent man. 

(4) After sin, however, we must acknowledge not only 
our indigence, but also our misery: the misery of our 
wretched and egoistic heart, of our inconstant will, of our 
irregular, violent, and capricious character; the misery of 
our spirit, which commits unpardonable forgetfulness and 
falls into contradictions that it can and ought to avoid; 
and the misery of pride and concupiscence, which leads to 
indifference concerning the glory of God and the salvation 
of souls. 

This misery is less than nothingness itself since it consti- 
tutes a disorder, sometimes throwing our soul into a state 
of abjection that renders it worthy of contempt. The 
Miserere of the Divine Office often reminds us of these 
great truths: 

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your 
great goodness; and according to the greatness of Your 
compassion, wipe out my offence. 

Thoroughly wash me from my guilt, and of my 
sin cleanse me. 

For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is 
before me always. 



Indeed, in guilt was I born, and in sin my mother 
conceived me. 

Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be purified; 
wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. 

Turn away Your face from my sins, and blot out 
all my guilt. 

A clean heart give me, O God, and a steadfast 
spirit renew in me. 

Give me back the joy of your salvation, and Your 
holy Spirit take not from me (Ps. 51, 3 ff.). 

Yet who can detect his own failings? Absolve me 
from those that are hidden (Ps. 19, 13). 

How much different this abasement through true humility 
from that cowardliness born of human respect and spiritual 
sloth! Pusillanimity, contrary to magnanimity, flees from 
necessary work. Humility, far from being opposed to grandeur 
of soul, is intimately united to it. Thus the true Christian 
ought to aim at great things, worthy of a great heart. 
Yet, he should aim humbly and, if necessary, run the 
course of great humiliations. He must learn to say often: 
" Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your Name give 

The pusillanimous is he who refuses to do what he can 
and ought to do. He can also sin mortally when he refuses 
to do what is obligatory. Humility, on the contrary, bows 
man before God, to put him in his true place. It does not 
abase us before God except to enable Him to act more 
freely in us. Far from being discouraged the humble soul 
places itself in the hands of God, and if by means of it 
the Lord does great things, it does not boast, just as the 
ax in the hands of the woodsman does not boast, nor the 
harp in the hands of the artist. It says with the Holy 
Virgin: " Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to 
me according to Your word! " 



Humility with Respect to One's Neighbor 

On this subject, St. Thomas, in a manner as simple as 
it is profound, says: " Each one ought to acknowledge that, 
in what he possesses through himself, he is inferior to all 
that every other person has received from God." Every 
man of himself has nothing other than his indigence, defec- 
tability, and deficiency. He ought to acknowledge, not only 
theoretically but also practically that all he has from himself 
is inferior to all that every other person has from God, both 
in the order of nature and that of grace. 

The holy Doctor adds concisely: " The truly humble man 
considers himself inferior to others not because of external 
acts, but because he fears he may be accomplishing even 
the good he does through hidden pride." For this reason 
the Psalmist says: " Yet who can detect his own failings? 
Absolve me from those that are hidden." Or better, 
" Purify me, Lord, from my hidden faults." Moreover, 
St. Augustine says: " Believe that other persons, though 
in a hidden way, are better than you, although you seem 
to be morally superior to them." 

Again with St. Augustine we must say: " There is not 
a sin committed by another which I could not commit 
because of my frailty; and if I have not committed it, it 
is because God in His mercy has not permitted it and has 
kept me in the good." Sacred Scripture says (Ps. 51): 
" Lord, create in me a clean heart and a steadfast spirit; 
convert me to You, and I shall be converted; have mercy 
on me, a sinner, because I am weak and poor." St. Thomas 
writes: " Since the love of God for us is the cause of all 
good, no one would be better than another if he were not 
loved more by God " (5. T. q. 20, a. 3). 

* What do you have that was not given to you? " 
(I Cor. 4, 7) This induces the saints to say to themselves 
on seeing a criminal condemned to death: " If this man 
had received the same graces that I have received for so 



many years, perhaps he would have been less unfaithful 
than I; and if God had permitted in my life the mistakes 
that He permitted in his, he would be in my place and 
I in his." 

" What do you have that was not given to you? " This 
is the true foundation of Christian humility. All pride 
should be smashed under this divine saying! The humility 
of the saints thus becomes more and more profound, 
because they come to know better and better their own 
frailty in contrast to the grandeur and goodness of God. 
We must always aim toward this humility of the saints. 
But we should not employ the formulas that they used 
until we are profoundly convinced of their truth; otherwise, 
it would result in a false humility which would be, in 
comparison to the true, what rhinestones are in comparison 
to a diamond. 

Humility toward one's neighbor, thus characterized by 
St. Thomas, differs immensely from human respect and 
pusillanimity. Human respect is the fear of the opinion 
and the anger of the wicked; this fear separates us from 
God. Cowardliness flees necessary work; it withdraws 
before great things that are to be accomplished and inclines 
toward pettiness. Humility bows us in a noble way before 
God and before what is divine in our neighbor. 

The humble man does not give way to the power of 
the wicked, and in this he differs, says St. Thomas, from 
the ambitious man who abases himself more than required 
for attaining what he wants, and abases himself slavishly to 
attain power. Humility does not flee great things. On the 
contrary, it reinforces magnanimity, making the latter aim 
humbly toward elevated things. Humility and magnanimity 
are two complementary virtues that sustain one another 
like the two arches of a vault. These two virtues appeared 
splendidly in Our Lord when He said: " The Son of Man 
came not to be served but to serve [this is humility], and 
to give His life as a ransom for many [this is magnanimity 



with its zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of 
souls] " (Mt. 20, 28). 

It was not possible for Our Savior to aim at anything 
higher or to tend toward it with greater humility. He 
wished to give us eternal life, and to accomplish this He 
chose the way of humiliation, the Passion, and the Cross. 

In due proportion, these same two apparently contra- 
dictory virtues are united in the saints. Thus, the humble 
John the Baptist did not fear the anger of Herod when 
he said to him: " What you are doing is not lawful * 
(cf. Mt. 14, 4 and Mk. 6, 18). The apostles in their humility 
have no fear of the opinion of men and are magnanimous 
even to martyrdom. There is something similar in all the 
saints. The more humble they are, the stronger they are 
and the less they fear human opinions however much they 
are to be feared. Such is the humble Vincent de Paul, 
fearless before the Jansenist pride, which he denounced in 
order to conserve for souls the grace of frequent Communion. 

The Levels of Humility 

Without humility it is impossible to have the perfection 
of charity. Then, what, practically speaking, do we have to 
do to attain the perfection of humility? Above all it is 
necessary to maintain the correct attitude with respect to 
praise and reproach. 

Regarding praise, we must not commend ourselves. 
This would be to soil ourselves, as the proverb says: " He 
who acclaims himself, stains himself. " Those who praise 
themselves find that they are never praised enough by others. 
We must not seek praises for we would make ourselves 
ridiculous and lose the merit of our good works. Finally, 
we must not be complacent with praises when we receive 
them. We could lose if not all the merit of our good actions, 
at least the flower of merit. 



Concerning reproaches, we ought to accept patiently 
those we deserve, especially when superiors with the right 
and duty make them. If one becomes sulky, the benefit of 
this just correction is lost. Sometimes, it is also fitting to 
accept patiently a reproach that is hardly merited or totally 
undeserved. St. Thomas, when a novice, was unjustly 
corrected for an error in Latin while reading in the refectory. 
He corrected himself as he was told, but during recreation 
his surprised confreres asked him: " You were right, you 
read well; why did you correct yourself? " And St. Thomas 
replied: " Before God it is better to make an error in 
grammar than to be lacking in obedience and humility." 

Finally, it is good to ask for the love of contempt, 
remembering the example of the saints. When Our Lord 
asked St. John of the Cross: " What do you want as a 
reward? " he answered: " To be despised and to suffer for 
your love." His prayer was heard. A few days later, in a 
very sorrowful episode, he was treated as an unworthy 
religious and in such a manner that is hard to imagine. 

St. Francis of Assisi said to Brother Leo: " If, arriving 
late at night at the convent gate, the brother porter does 
not wish to open up for us, but takes us to be thieves and 
beats us with a stick leaving us all night in the rain 
and cold, it is then that we ought to say: ' What perfect 
joy! What joy, O Lord, to suffer for You and to become a 
little like You.' " The saints raised themselves to this 

St. Anselm has excellently described the levels of 

(1) to acknowledge that under certain aspects we are 
worthy of contempt; 

(2) to accept being so; 

(3) to confess that we are so; 

(4) to wish that our neighbor believe this; 

(5) to bear it patiently when this is said of us; 



(6) to accept, without reserve, being treated as a person 
worthy of contempt; 

(7) to wish to be treated in this way. 

These superior levels are described in all the books on 
piety, but, as St. Theresa says, " They are a gift of God; 
they are supernatural goods. " They suppose a certain infused 
contemplation of the humility of Our Lord, who was cru- 
cified for us, and a living desire in us to become similar 
to Him. 

It is certainly fitting to aim at this sublime perfection. 
Yet, few are the souls that attain it. Before attaining it the 
interior soul has many occasions to remember the words of 
Jesus, so simple and profound but truly imitable, at least 
in a relative way: " The Son of Man came not to be served 
but to serve, and to give His fife as a ransom for many." 
This is the deepest humility, united to the noblest grandeur 
of soul. 

One of the most beautiful formulas in which humility 
and magnanimity are reconciled is this one taken from the 
works of St. Thomas. " The servant of God ought always 
to consider himself a beginner and always to tend toward 
a more perfect and holier life, without ever stopping." 



Happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is 
the kingdom of heaven. — Mt. 5, 3 
And everyone who has left houses, broth- 
ers, sisters, father, mother, children or 
land for the sake of My name will be 
repaid a hundred times, and also inherit 
eternal life.— Mt. 19, 29 

We have seen what mortification is in general. Now it 
is necessary to examine how it is organized in a permanent 
way in the religious state through the practice of the 
three vows. 

The objections of Naturalism against Christian morti- 
fication naturally extend also to the religious vows. Accord- 
ing to the naturalists, the vows are a hindrance, an impov- 
erishment that condemns one to inactivity. This objection 
considers only the externals of the religious state, namely, 
that which has the prime purpose of protecting the heart 
of the state of consecration. Since its essence is wholly of the 
supernatural order, this escapes the notice of Naturalism. 

The Religious State: State of Consecration 
that Presupposes Separation 

If the religious fife is considered only from the outside, 
it appears as a state of separation from the world, and it 
may indeed seem to be something very negative. Yet, if 
we observe it in its intimate being, or better, in its essence, 



we see that it is a state of consecration, of giving of self, 
and of belonging to God. Naturalism sees only the sepa- 
ration and cannot grasp the reason for it. It cannot see 
why this separation is required for the consecration which 
it safeguards. Consequently, it is very important to under- 
stand well the relationship existing between these two 
aspects, negative and positive, of the religious life. 

Our Lord was consecrated and therefore separated. The 
religious state is the school of sanctity, the school of the 
imitation of Our Lord, who from His very birth was 
essentially and exclusively consecrated to God, consecrated 
in His nature itself. All His acts, even the most indifferent, 
proceeded from His divine personality and were referred 
to God through His love for His Father. 

The soul of Our Lord is the domain where the kingdom 
of God develops in all its fullness. Since Our Lord belongs 
exclusively to God, He cannot belong to the world. He was 
separated from the world, that is, separated from sin, from 
earthly goods, from honors and daily worldly affairs 
(poverty); separated from pleasures, free from the needs 
of family life (chastity), so that even at the age of twelve 
He declared that He had to concern Himself with His 
Father's business; finally, He was separated from Himself, 
from His own will since He was not living for any other 
motive than to do the will of His Father, " to obey even 
to death, and to death on the Cross " (obedience). 

For us the contrary is true. Jesus, coming from above, is 
consecrated even from His birth. This transcendence separates 
Him. The religious, on the other hand, who makes profession 
of imitating Our Lord, comes from below, that is, from the 
world and from sin. Hence, he must first of all separate 
himself from the world that he may be able to consecrate 
himself to God and belong to Him alone. 

Triple separation and triple consecration. For the reli- 
gious soul to belong wholly to God, a triple separation and 



a triple consecration are necessary: separation and consecra- 
tion of his external goods, separation and consecration of 
his body, and separation and consecration of his liberty. 
Only in this way will the harmony of the state of original 
justice be reestablished, insofar as this is possible here 
below. In the state of original justice there was a perfect 
harmony between the body and the external goods destined 
to serve the body, between the soul and the body destined 
to serve the soul, and finally, between God and the soul 
destined to serve God. 

Original sin and sin in general disturb this triple harmony. 
Instead of making use of external goods, our body is led 
to make itself a slave of them, to accumulate riches. The 
miser becomes a slave of his treasure, the rich man a slave 
of his wealth and business, which absorb him entirely. Such 
is concupiscence of the eyes, never having enough of glitter 
and shine. After sin, the soul has the tendency to make itself 
a slave of the body, instead of using it. Such is the concu- 
piscence of the flesh. Human liberty, carried to pride, 
refuses to be subject to God and to serve Him, thus 
becoming a slave of its own caprices. This is pride of life. 

The purpose of the three vows is precisely to reestablish 
the original harmony. The vow of poverty separates us 
from external goods, consecrating them to God so that they 
may no longer be an obstacle, but rather a means. The 
vow of chastity separates us, so to speak, from our body, 
consecrating it to God so that it may no longer be an 
obstacle but a means for the life of the soul. The vow of 
obedience separates us from our will, from our liberty, 
consecrating it to God so that it may be fully subject 
to Him. 

When we have abandoned to God our goods, our body, 
and our liberty, He transforms them so they can no longer 
be an occasion of disorder. He gives them back to us as 
the means to salvation. Fittingly we affirm of religious: 
" All belongs to you; but you belong to Christ, and Christ 



to God " (cf. I Cor. 3, 22). This is the reason for the 
three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. 

When these three virtues are subordinated to the virtue 
of religion, which has for its object the internal and external 
cult owed to God, the practice of poverty, chastity, and 
obedience becomes an act of religion. It is the oblation of 
ourselves to God, an oblation which, when total, merits 
the name of sacrifice and holocaust. 

The religious soul, to make certain that it will not 
turn back but will persevere in the practice of these virtues, 
namely, poverty, chastity, obedience, and religion, binds 
itself to God with the three vows. These become a triple 
contract between God and us through which we obligate 
ourselves, for a certain time or even to death, to practice 
these virtues. Through such a contract, God obligates 
Himself, providing we are faithful, to give us what is 
necessary to lead us to sanctity. The vow is a means, a 
bulwark of virtue which extends much farther than the vow 
itself. Indeed, the virtue not only embraces what is obligatory 
in the religious life, but involves the sensitivity and 
generosity that constitute its perfection. 

The vow, especially the perpetual vow, makes us become 
forever the property of God. It gives us, body and soul, 
to God. It gives to God our works, our prayer, our time, 
and our smallest actions. In return, God pledges to give 
Himself completely to us. 

The Religious Value of Poverty 

We will now consider religious poverty, the virtue of 
poverty that is essentially subordinated to the virtue of 
religion and which, under this aspect, merits the name of 
holy poverty. Religious poverty implies, as do all the 
religious virtues, a separation or renunciation together with 
a consecration. 



Separation. Religious poverty implies essentially the 
renunciation of both property and of the free use of external 
goods for the love of God. If the motive of this renunciation 
or separation is not the love of God, one cannot speak of 
holy poverty, but at the most, of a philosophical poverty 
that disdains external goods through indifference, or in 
order to escape being bothered with them, or sometimes 
out of pride. 

The renunciation demanded by holy poverty is not the 
privation of external goods. Hardship and misery are not 
holy poverty. We do not renounce external goods any more 
than we do our body or our liberty. We do renounce 
ownership and free use of these goods. Holy poverty forbids 
us to be attached to them with our heart. We should use 
these goods with a certain indifference, almost without being 
aware of them. We must always be ready to part with the 
objects wc are using, including objects of piety. They 
remain only a means to our devotion whereas they could 
become obstacles if we become too attached to them. 

Besides the actual ownership of goods, holy poverty 
forbids our free use of them. We should not use them, 
loan them, or give them away except with the explicit 
or, at least, the tacit permission of our superiors. We ought 
to limit ourselves to what is strictly necessary and avoid 
the superfluous. What is more comfortable becomes super- 
fluous whenever what is less comfortable is sufficient. The 
best way of knowing what is necessary and what is not, is 
to conform ourselves to what is given to all — nothing 
more — unless there is a special reason, which, however, 
is always left to the judgment of the superior. 

Holy poverty obliges us, moreover, to bear with patience 
and for the love of God, the accidental privation of some- 
thing necessary when divine Providence permits this privation 
to test our patience and our trust. We should remember that 
rarely do we do, for the love of God, what very often is 
done in the world by the poor. They sometimes lack even. 



bread to nourish themselves, clothing, heat, time to relax, 
doctors and medicine for their health. We should acquire 
some strength to bear difficulties without complaining. If 
not, how could the practice of poverty be a mortification? 
How could it produce in us that religious strength and 
that joy, even in the midst of difficulties and privations, 
that Our Lord wishes to see in us so that we may be 
His image? 

We ought to remember the extent to which Jesus was 
detached from the goods of this world. He was born in a 
stable and died on a cross. Nothing belonged to Him, not 
even the house he lived in at Nazareth. That belonged to 
His Mother, who died after Him. During His ministry 
He had nothing of His own, not even a place on which 
to rest His head. When they wished to proclaim Him king, 
He fled. The only glory that He sought was that of His 
Father. This glory, however, He sought, He wanted, and 
He demanded. We ought to be detached like Our Lord, 
like the saints, like our saintly Father Dominic who did 
not have even a personal cell or a bed on which to rest. 

Consecration. Holy poverty does not involve only the 
renunciation of ownership and use of external goods. It 
assumes also the consecration of these goods to God. 
When we have turned them over to God, He concedes us 
the use of these goods on condition that we use them only 
for our salvation, for the salvation of souls, and for His 
greater glory. We can have beautiful convents, and especially 
beautiful churches, and still be practicing holy poverty. 
We possess these convents and churches for God, not for 
ourselves; they are not ours, but God's. Blessed Angelico 
was not lacking in poverty when he decorated the cells for 
the religious of Saint Mark's in Florence with frescoes that 
represented Our Lord's life. 

In our monasteries we stand around Our Lord, not 
as beggars, but as sons. He gives us abundantly what is 



needed for soul and body. At the Sacred Table He gives 
Himself to us to nourish our souls. In the refectory He 
takes care that we have food to replenish the body. 
And what is " necessary " is not identical for all religious 
orders. The Lord distributes to each according to the nature 
and needs of its apostolate. 

We can cease to be poor in two ways: by diverting these 
goods from their ultimate end, or by lacking trust in divine 
Providence. And these things we do to the extent that we 
make the goods of God serve our personal interests, outside 
any religious purpose. We also cease to be poor when we 
dissipate the goods of God, when we allow them to be 
damaged or lost, and when we waste time in dreaming or 
chatting — for our time belongs to God. The truly poor 
religious is hard working; and his work is that established 
by his rule, not anything else. 

We are likewise wanting in holy poverty if, in moments 
when privation begins to make itself felt, we are lacking 
trust in divine Providence. In taking the vow of poverty, 
we signed an agreement with God and we have His signature. 
He has obligated Himself to provide us with what is 
necessary if we remain faithful to our duty, the specific 
purpose of our Order. 

We should remember our father, St. Dominic. The 
brethren came to tell him: " Nothing more remains to eat." 
" Go to the refectory," said the man of God, and the 
angels descended from heaven to serve the religious. It 
could not have been otherwise. Our Lord has given His 
word, and Dominic and his brethren had not been lacking 
in theirs. St. Agnes of Montepulciano, prioress at twenty 
years of age, found herself without any resources. Yet, she 
loved holy poverty, and knew how to surmount the difficulty 
despite the greatest privations. She had trust in the word 
of God. The Lord left her temporarily without anything 
only to test her love. 



Why then should we be anxious? The Lord said to 
all Christians: " That is why I am telling you not to worry 
about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your 
body and how you are to clothe it. Surely life means more 
than food, and the body more than clothing! Look at the 
birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into 
barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not 
worth much more than they are? ... So do not worry; do 
not say, ' What are we to eat? What are we to drink? How 
are we to be clothed? ' It is the pagans who set their hearts 
on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need 
them all. Set your hearts on His kingdom first, and on His 
righteousness, and all these other things will be given you 
as well " (Mt. 6, 25-33). If Jesus has made this infallible 
promise to all Christians, what will He not do for His 
religious who have placed their lives in His hands? 

St. Theresa has written: " The less we have, the less 
anxious I am. Our Lord knows very well that I experience 
more displeasure when the alms go beyond what is necessary 
than when something is lacking. And still I cannot say that 
we have been in need, such is the readiness of our adorable 
Master to come and help us " (The Way of Perfection, 
chap. 2). 

We should strive to have this marvelous supernatural 
and divine trust. In moments of necessity we should never 
omit the prayers Our Lord demands that we perform, 
in order to do material works that He does not want. 
We should never transform the monastery into a workshop 
to procure our necessities nor should we seek to attract 
alms solely by human means. 

We should strive to be faithful to the Lord in the ob- 
servance of our rule and He, likewise, will be faithful to 
us. Just as God gave His word to St. Dominic, St. Agnes, 
and St. Theresa, so He has also given His word to us. 
Our Lord has said: " Happy are the poor in spirit; theirs 



is the kingdom of Heaven." He does not say " will be," 
but " is." 

Such is holy poverty under its two aspects, negative 
and positive, of separation and consecration. External goods 
are no longer an obstacle since they no longer absorb us, 
no longer preoccupy us. We use them to maintain the life 
of our body, for the salvation of souls, and for the glory 
of God. 

Thus, in a monastery, by means of holy poverty, material 
goods themselves render a cult to God, the ultimate end 
of all creation. Original harmony is reestablished. Freeing 
us from a thousand temporal concerns, holy poverty permits 
us to think about God and souls, to run along the road 
of perfection, and to live only for God and souls. Who 
can say what the fruitfulness of holy poverty will be under 
this aspect? Tt is enough to visit some convents dedicated 
to the help of the poor and the sick, or to teaching. 

Still there is another fruitfulness that is purely spiritual. 
Holy poverty teaches us to practice many virtues, such 
as patience, humility, meekness. Above all, if we are 
docile, it communicates to us the spirit of detachment in 
such fullness that we are motivated to practice it not only 
in regard to material goods, but also in regard to the 
spiritual goods of intellect, heart, and soul. 

The goods of intelligence are the various forms of 
knowledge; the goods of the heart are the affections; and 
the goods of the soul are spiritual consolations and our 
merits. Holy poverty teaches us not to consider as our 
own property the knowledge and small capacities we may 
have, because all this belongs to God. We ought to be 
detached from them; otherwise, this private possession 
that we have usurped will make us fall into pride. 

We ought to consecrate to God our intellectual work, 
that is, to study what God wills, when He wills, as He 
wills, solely for His service, for His cult, for His glory. 



The life of the saints tells us clearly enough how pleased 
Our Lord is to pour His light on souls detached from 
their own personal ideas. We might recall, for example, 
how much the insights of a St. Catherine of Siena surpass 
the highest theological contemplation. 

Holy poverty teaches us to be detached from our affec- 
tions. If, on the contrary, we wish to remain attached to 
them, they will bring about a great waste of time that 
we owe to God and to souls. These affections will be for 
us a danger of falling into sentimentalism or into still 
graver faults. We must consecrate our affections to God 
and place them under the supernatural influence of the 
virtues of charity and religion. Then they will grow and 
Our Lord will reveal to us all the treasures of a friendship 
that is truly supernatural. Holy poverty also teaches us to 
be content when we are not loved by some confreres or 
superiors. Is not die love of Jesus sufficient? 

Poverty of spirit detaches us from the goods of the 
soul, that is, from spiritual consolations. It teaches us not 
to seek them for themselves as an end — a very dangerous 
thing — since in so doing we offer a weapon to the devil. 
They ought to be desired only for God, as a means. One 
ought to accept being deprived of them when the Lord 
deems it necessary. 

Poverty of spirit teaches us not to envy the graces 
given to other souls, and not to wish to become saints 
immediately without passing through the grades of inter- 
mediate trials. It teaches us to thank God when He takes 
from us the esteem of men and keeps us in humility by 
leaving us in our miseries. Further, it teaches us to despoil 
ourselves of our merits and to offer them to Our Lord and 
to the Holy Virgin for the salvation of needy souls. In this 
case, by despoiling ourselves we shall receive more than 
we give; indeed, we shall receive the hundredfold. 

Finally, this voluntary " Kenosis " prepares us for what 
God wishes to perform in us to ready us for the life in 



heaven; to prepare us for that emptying of all that is 
human in us, for that interior crucifixion, for that nakedness 
of soul which for the saints begins and ends here below, 
while for the others it is accomplished in purgatory. 

May the Lord grant that we dispose our soul to the 
work of a wholly divine purification which He alone can 
accomplish in us! 



Happy the pure in heart: they shall see 
God.— Mt. 5, 8 

We have considered how holy poverty consists of the 
renunciation of external goods and in the consecration of 
these goods to the service of God. Religious chastity involves 
these two elements also: supernatural detachment from 
the pleasures of the body and the consecration of our body 
to God so diat it may be a faithful servant in the work 
of our salvation, of the salvation of souls, and of the glory 
of God. 

As for this separation and this consecration we ought to 
meditate particularly on the following aspects: 

( 1 ) The aim of this renunciation is to flee the servitude 
of the senses in order to be united to God, a thing that 
would not be necessary in the state of innocence. 

(2) This renunciation consists in giving up ownership 
and free use of one's body. 

(3) The principle of this renunciation is the grace deriv- 
ing from mortification. 


(1) The aim of this renunciation of matrimony and the 
pleasures of the senses is to flee the enslavement of the 
senses in order to unite ourselves to God. The unbeliever 
cannot understand this renunciation since he sees it as a 
negative perfection and unnatural. He holds the qualities 
of the mother of a family much superior to those of a 



woman religious. In reality, this renunciation became a 
perfection only in consequence of original sin. It had 
no reason for existence in the state of innocence (S.T. I, 
q. 98, a. 2 ad 3), because in that state the body was 
perfectly subject to the soul, the passions perfectly docile 
to right reason, and the pleasures of the senses did not 
have that immoderate ardor that throws the soul into 
uneasiness and agitation and weighs it down, thus diverting 
it from contemplation of divine things. 

Only as a consequence of original sin is virginity to 
be preferred to matrimony (S.T. II-II, q. 152, a. 4; and 
definition of the Council of Trent, sess. 24, can. 10 against 
Calvin and Luther). The observance of absolute chastity 
in the religious life tends precisely, by means of the 
privation of the pleasures of the senses, to reestablish the 
original harmony of soul and body, and to render the 
body so docile that the soul no longer experiences any 
agitation and can fully live its spiritual life. 

" This absolute chastity," says St. Thomas, " cannot be 
practiced by all; but if it is necessary that some embrace 
the marriage state to assure the corporeal conservation of 
the human race, it is fitting that others abstain from it 
to devote themselves to the contemplation of divine things 
and thus contribute to the beauty and salvation of the 
whole human race " (cf. S.T. II-II, q. 152, a. 2 ad 1). 
The renunciation that religious chastity demands is, there- 
fore, essentially related to our state of fallen nature. It is 
because the furnace of concupiscence remains in us after 
sin that God invites us to chastity. 

Furthermore, the motive of this renunciation is the love 
of God. Detachment from the pleasures of the body through 
insensibility or through philosophic disdain does not 
constitute holy chastity. Some philosophers have abstained 
from the pleasures of the flesh to devote themselves to 
study (as St. Catherine of Siena notes) but we, instead, 
ought to do this for love of God. 



(2) Of what does this renunciation consist? It is not 
in separating ourselves from our body, but in giving up 
its ownership and its free use. By religious profession our 
body belongs to God; it becomes His. The profanation 
of this body, then, would be a sacrilege, just as in marriage 
the body of one spouse belongs to the other and its profa- 
nation would be adultery. We may no longer make free 
use of our body. We ought even to renounce every affec- 
tion of our heart that is extraneous to the love of God. 
This is something indispensable. 

(3) How are we to attain this renunciation? It is a 
gift of God, a supernatural infused virtue. Yet, God does 
not preserve it in us without our help. He wishes our 
cooperation, and calls for a twofold mortification, that 
of the flesh and that of the heart. 

Without the mortification of the flesh it is impossible 
to practice holy chastity. For this reason our Constitutions 
prescribe fasting, abstinence, and vigils. We should not 
deprive ourselves of these obligatory helps. It is the least 
we can do. 

But the mortification of the flesh is absolutely insufficient 
without mortification of the heart. In this regard the saints 
have given us the most beneficial warnings. Blessed Angela 
of Foligno writes: " Every affection of the heart is dangerous, 
even that which we have for God, if it is not what it 
should be. Love is the center where all good is contained 
and the center where all evil is contained. Nothing on 
earth, neither creature nor dominion, is so terrible as love, 
because no power penetrates the soul, the mind, the heart 
as it does. If this force is not regulated, the soul rushes 
frivolously into all snares, and its love is its ruin. I am not 
speaking only of a love that is absolutely sinful, where the 
danger of going to hell escapes no one. I am also speaking 
of the love of God and neighbor when it is not what it 
ought to be. When the love of God is not accompanied by 



discernment and mortification of the heart, it leads to death 
and to illusion. Whoever loves God in order to be preserved 
from some accidental suffering or to taste some spiritual 
sweetness, does not love in the right order. He loves himself 
first, and then God " (chap. 64). 

He thus abuses what is most holy — God and His 
gifts — and he offers support to all the temptations of 
the devil. The spiritual joys that he seeks for themselves 
stir up the passions sleeping in his heart of flesh. In this 
way, instead of taking the road that leads to the summits, 
where St. Catherine of Siena and St. Theresa lived, he 
slides inevitably down the descent, where Madame Guyon 
and other false mystics who ended up even more miserably 
let themselves be dragged. The worst corruption is that of 
the well-endowed soul. (The corruption of the best is the 
worst!) There is nothing more elevated than true mysticism, 
nothing worse than the false. 

The spiritual love of one's neighbor or one's friend is 
also extremely dangerous unless it is accompanied by a 
profound discretion and mortification of the heart. Other- 
wise, it becomes useless, harmful, and carnal. The soul 
that has made the vow of chastity has become the property 
of God. It ought, therefore, to reserve for Him this heart 
that no longer belongs to self, and forbid all affection 
extraneous to charity. Instead, it sometimes wastes the 
time owed to God in useless conversations and dangerous 
dreams. If the person loved is wounded with the same arrow, 
the danger increases. " The hearts are attached, one to the 
other, and wisdom is not in them," says Blessed Angela 
of Foligno. 

The day will come when these souls will be left blinded 
and will no longer see any evil in the most dangerous 
of liberties. They are sliding, and sometimes it is only at the 
bottom of the abyss, after the offence, that they wake up 
and open their eyes. 



St. Theresa, in a celebrated chapter (chap. 4) of her Way 
of Perfection, says that certain particular frien 
a true plague that, little by little, kills fervor an 
normal life. Such a plague generates profound divisions in 
the common life and compromises salvation. Many vocations 
are lost in the novitiate, or sometimes later, through an 
attachment that is too natural and too sensible, which, 
becoming stronger and stronger, separates one more and 
more from God. 

Is all spiritual friendship, then, to be condemned? Not 
at all! It would be like condemning in totality the whole 
mystical life, with the pretext that there is a false mysticism. 
Spiritual friendship and true mysticism are those accom- 
panied by discretion and mortification of the heart. Some 
friendships are truly a grace and a help that comes from 
God. Models of such friendships are that of St. Catherine 
of Siena and Blessed Raymond of Capua, a profound and 
supernatural friendship, full of self-denial, as is evident to 
us from the splendid letters that have been preserved; 
and that of St. Theresa and St. John of the Cross. " When 
reciprocal love is directed to serving the Lord, it can be 
recognized by the effects. In such a friendship there is 
no passion, and nothing other is sought than to encourage 
each other to conquer further passions. I would like to 
see many of these friendships between religious in large 
monasteries. But for this small house (of Avila) where we 
are, and in which we can be only thirteen, all the religious 
ought to be friends; all ought to love one another with 
warmth and to help each other " (St. Theresa, Way of Perfec- 
tion, chap. 4). 

These friendships, highly exalted and highly useful, are 
the fruit of mortification of the heart, which is their true 
guardian, and which, preventing them from deviating, permits 
them to grow until they become blended with charity. 
" Only those who have acquired the knowledge and 
the power of separating themselves immediately from 



anything, when they want to, can come together without 
fear " (Angela of Foligno, chap. 64). 

Such is the renunciation and the twofold mortification of 
the flesh and heart that holy chastity imposes on us. Thus, 
it is especially a separation. 


As we have said, holy chastity is also a consecration of 
our body and heart to God. The effect of this consecration 

(1) to make the body more similar to the soul; 

(2) to make the soul more and more similar to God; 

(3) to unite the soul to God with the bonds of a true 
marriage, in comparison to which the marriage of earth is 
only a symbol and shadow. 

(1) First of all, a body living only for the soul becomes 
more similar to it, just as a friend takes on, little by little, 
the habits and tastes of his friend. What is the soul? 
It is a spiritual substance which we have never seen. Allow 
me to cite what one of the better preachers of our 
Order writes on this subject. " To see a soul it would be 
necessary to have the purely intellectual sight of the angels. 
We do know, however, that it must be absolutely simple, 
of a radiant beauty much superior to all sensible beauties, 
and serene and incorruptible." 

The soul must be simple because it is not composed of 
extended parts like the body. It must be beautiful because 
it is pure, without admixture of matter; beautiful like 
beautiful doctrines, beautiful ideas, and beautiful actions, 
because the soul's intellectual and sensible faculties are 
its adequate and harmonious expression. The soul must 
be serene because it is immaterial, and therefore not 
disquieted by that which, being made of matter, is subject 
to movement, agitation, turbulence. Finally, it must be 


incorruptible, because it is simple. What is lacking in parts 
cannot be decomposed or corrupted. 

Even the body through purity becomes in its own way 
simple, beautiful, calm, and incorruptible: simple as the 
veil of a virgin, simple as the attitude of a small child. 
Only two beings, by reason of their purity, are simple, 
the baby and the saint. The former is because he does not 
know evil; the latter because he has forgotten it by the 
effort of overcoming it. 

The body, by means of purity, becomes beautiful because 
all that is pure is beautiful. The sky is beautiful when it 
is clear; the diamond is beautiful because it is pure, allow- 
ing itself to be penetrated by light; the human body is 
beautiful when it is pure, allowing itself to be penetrated 
by the soul whose reflection and expression it becomes. 
What makes the faces reproduced by Blessed Angelico so 
beautiful, if not their purity wherein the whole soul is 
transparent? Vice, on the other hand, disfigures. 

With purity the body becomes calm. When purity is 
lost, noise and all that is showy and clamorous are sought. 
When one is converted, calm, solitude and recollection are 
sought. The attitude of a virgin is calm; that of the worldly 
person is noisy and agitated. 

Finally, with purity the body becomes in its own way 
incorruptible. Purity preserves the body, while vice withers 
it, destroying and killing it. In the state of innocence, the 
body would have had the privilege of incorruptibility which 
the soul has by its nature. Still, purity leaves behind itself 
a trace of this original privilege. The body of some saints 
after death often remains incorrupt and gives off a delight- 
ful fragrance. 

The purest bodies — those of Our Lord and of the 
Blessed Virgin — did not have to know the corruption of 
the grave. The body of our holy father Dominic was found 
intact and it gave off a most pleasing fragrance when his 



grave was opened. The body of St. Catherine of Alexandria, 
the philosopher, was carried by angels to Mount Sinai after 
her martyrdom. 

(2) Chastity produces in the soul another superior effect. 
It makes the soul similar to God and unites it to Him with 
the bond of a true marriage. 

We first note that the principal attributes of God are: 
power, which belongs more particularly to the Father; 
light, which belongs in a special way to the Son, the Word 
of God and Splendor of the Father; and love, which 
belongs more particularly to the Holy Spirit, the expression 
of the common love of the Father and the Son. We can 
see that with holy chastity the soul becomes powerful, 
strong, and luminous, participating in the divine Love in 
a manner so intimate that it truly becomes the bride of 
the Incarnate Word, the beloved daughter of the Father 
of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 

With chastity the soul becomes powerful and strong. 
Suffice it to recall the courage of the Christian virgins who 
desired martyrdom, as did St. Cecilia, St. Agnes, St. Cathe- 
rine, St. Lucy. They displayed a courage so superhuman 
that it terrified their executioners — an obvious miracle, 
and show of God's power. By means of chastity the soul 
becomes luminous: " Happy the pure in heart; they shall 
see God." The great seers — St. John, St. Paul, St. Thomas 
Aquinas — were virgins. St. Thomas Aquinas, freed forever 
at eighteen from the temptations of the flesh, consecrated 
his whole life to the contemplation of divine truths. 

Often what theologians have not seen has been anti- 
cipated and intuited by Christian virgins, such as St. Cather- 
ine of Siena and St. Therese of Jesus, through the clear- 
sightedness of their love. Frequently the theologian stops 
at the truth of God. The apostle goes beyond the truth to 
delight in the divine goodness also. Meanwhile, the contem- 
plative virgin goes beyond the truth and the goodness to 



the beauty of God itself which is as the brightness and 
splendor of all His perfections taken together. 

Of what value is the purely sensible beauty of even 
the most harmonious features in comparison with the spir- 
itual beauty of a sublime doctrine or a heroic life? What 
is there here below more beautiful than the life of a saint? 
And yet the beauty of a saint is still partial and limited. 
St. Dominic excels for his love of God and neighbor, 
St. Thomas for his wisdom, St. Antoninus for his pru- 
dence, St. Peter Martyr for his faith, St. Vincent Ferrer 
for his love of divine justice, and St. Louis Bertrand for 
his gift of fear of God. 

What a marvel to be able to contemplate the supreme 
harmony of all the divine attributes, the sublime accord 
between the most inexorable justice and the most tender 
mercy realized in that eminent quality of love so sublime 
that it is the source of these qualities which, in appearance, 
seem very contradictory! Here below we see contrasts. 
Chastity, however, makes the soul so luminous that it 
can intuit the most exalted harmony. Consequently, it is 
not surprising that the most outstanding words on how 
justice and mercy are to be reconciled were written by a 
soul that had rehabilitated itself through heroic chastity 
in the midst of the most terrible temptations, Blessed Angela 
of Foligno, who writes: " Nothing destroys harmony for 
me. I see the goodness of God in one saint and in all 
the saints, just as in one damned soul and in all the 
damned " (chap. 24). Heaven shows forth the diffusion of 
God's goodness and love; hell expresses His sacrosanct 
rights. Yet, it is always His goodness that is given and 

(3) Finally, the Christian virgin understands all the 
beauty of Jesus, and follows Him in all the acts of His 
life, from the manger to the Cross, as well as in His present- 
day work in souls. " In what splendor He has manifested 



Himself to the eyes of the heart that see wisdom! Jesus did 
not reign, nor amaze the world with His discoveries. That is 
not His way of sanctity. On the contrary, He was humble 
and holy, holy before God, terrible in front of the devil, 
without stain of sin! " (Pascal). 

The Christian virgin, more than any other person, knows 
the secrets which unite on the Cross the most heroic 
strength and the tenderest passion, the most profound 
anguish and the most sublime serenity, the overflowing 
of sorrow and the most perfect happiness. All these beauties 
charm the Bride of the Canticle of Canticles. This spectacle 
of the Cross gives birth to a love stronger than death. 

It is really holy chastity that enables the consecrated 
soul to love the Lord with the love of a bride. The soul 
is thus united to Him with the bonds of a marriage. 
Earthly marriage is only a symbol and shadow in compar- 
ison to these bonds, for the true realities are those of 
the life of the spirit. 

The value of earthly marriage derives from a union that 
is holy, strong, sweet and at the same time fruitful. Notice 
how all these perfections are magnified to the infinite in 
spiritual marriage! If earthly marriage is holy it is because, 
as St. Paul says, it is the image of the intimate and myste- 
rious union that exists between Our Lord and His Church 
(cf. Eph. 5, 23). It cannot be its image unless it implies, 
not only the union of bodies, but also that of the souls of 
the two spouses. The spiritual marriage between Our Lord 
and the soul consecrated to Him is holy in itself because it 
unites us to the fountain of all sanctity, and helps give 
the Church its character of holiness. By this, the Church 
is distinguished from all other societies. 

If earthly marriage is strong, it is because it is an 
indissoluble and reciprocal contract that supposes rights, 
duties and reciprocal services. Spiritual marriage is also 
indissoluble through rights — not only until death, but 
for eternity — and it implies such a reciprocity of rights 


that the consecrated soul can say to the Lord: " My beloved 
is'mine:and I am hi&" i(iGant-' 2/U6>.nAiiilt^-creatuie.can 
speak of an infinite Cod as if the: Almighty belonged to- it 
albnel Jiti b^i:ai2r^litHtaiGpxlVliq^rxm&-.fcani-say;ialimost 
toriHis. services,. : for God has given it His. heart: and it has 
become His collaborator. The religious nun is the collab- 
orator of the Lord in: establishing His kingdom in souls. 
By her life she demonstrates in a practical way the truth of 
therrdoctrMeiofcrrjesuso/She;. preadhesiiby.>Iheb jexample- and 
with an eloquence in a way. that words cannot equal. 

If earthly marsiagaisiafoety^weet union,.' 'it /is because 
of the intimacy that is assumed; with the revelation of 
the most secret thoughts; and by the perfect communion 
of' ideas, 1 feelings, and wishes. But see how .much : this 
intimacy is surpassed ;byTthe<^ion: between- Out /Lord' I and 
His! brides! Our. Lord hides i nothing froni the faithful soul. 
'! There are a thousand things -that it. knows, sees; senses, 
feels amd is.'/ableito. do-— things, ithatrlir klonevisn abler© 
seb, knoWjJlsense^jfeeifitind)ibe/capayie(bfjuo \o lonod " ns 
.zsiTHe Euchstoist) truly reveals. Jitsiflf (as" the'! daifyl testimony 
ofilthds love; and iuniomi'of bodies- and souls. " The holy koirf 
shares with! Our Lord all jHis sehrimeuts, suifersljwidi^Him 
illii,Hisiupams, *shauek " His/iijoyedxpartkiipatbs zumiaJM His 
ambitions," Hisu jealousies, iahd;// if x necessary; His, angers;* 
Like Magdalen, it washes His feet and anoints them with 
perfume. The will is fully one with that of Christ. It has 
a burning zeal for the salvation of souls and thoroughly 
understands all the force of these words of the Bridgroom: 
" I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it 
were blazing already! " (Lk. 12, 49). 

Finally, the fruit fulness of earthly marriage procures 
for God faithful servants and sons. But the bride of Our 
Lord, freed through holy chastity from all the exigencies 
of family life, becomes also a mother in the plan of the 
propagation of souls. This soul gives itself to the poor, 
the sick, and the needy souls whom it raises to the super- 



natural life by its mortification, prayers, abnegation, coun- 
sels, and exhortations. To convert sinners, preserve the 
just, fashion the saints, it is for this that the soul labors 
without rest, instructing the spirit and assisting the body. 

Is it not to this faithful bride, above all, to this mother 
who gives herself totally that Our Lord will say: " I was 
thirsty and you gave Me to drink; I was hungry and you 
gave Me to eat; I was naked and you covered Me; sick 
and you visited Me; in prison and you came to Me. Amen, 
amen, I say to you, he who renders these services to the 
least of My brethren, renders them to Me "? 

This is the spiritual maternity which we all achieve if 
we are simply faithful to the grace of our state. Is this not 
the hundredfold, even here below, promised by Our Lord 
to those who leave all to follow Him? 

Sons and daughters of St. Dominic, we ought to love 
this sublime virtue in a special way. It is a privilege of 
Christianity, as Father Lacordaire says, and, we can add, 
an " honor of our Order," which has been called by the 
Supreme Pontiffs, " Ordo Lilium," the Order of Lilies. 
St. Dominic, so pure and so luminous, who carries a lily 
in his hand and a star on his forehead, at the hour of his 
death left us this last exhortation: " Let us be pure, and 
we shall pass through the world illuminating it." 



Be obedient to the men who are called 
your masters in this world . . . as you are 
obedient to Christ. — Eph. 6, 5; cf. Heb. 
13, 28 

The speech of the obedient will always 
be heard. — Prov. 21, 28 
Explain to me how to keep your precepts, 
that I may meditate on your marvels. — 
Ps. 119, 27 

After having considered how the harmony between the 
body and external goods is reestablished here below by 
means of holy poverty, and how the harmony between 
soul and body is reestablished by holy chastity, it remains 
for us to see how holy obedience reestablishes the harmony 
between our soul and God, which was disturbed by sin. 

This third disorder, which is called by Sacred Scripture 
" the pride of life," is the love of absolute independence, 
the refusal to acknowledge an authority superior to ourselves. 
It is the gravest of all disorders, graver than concu- 
piscence of the eyes and of the flesh, graver than avarice 
and excessive love of riches and luxury. We are dealing, in 
fact, with a disturbance and perversion of the superior 
parts of the soul and its most elevated faculties, reason 
and will, which command all the rest. " The corruption of 
the best is the worst." For the worst corruption is that 
which perverts the most exalted and profound that is 
in us. This is the spiritual disorder that exists in the devil, 



who#a3 1sri©W\ Wither avarice nor lust, but who refuses to 
serve and obey God, insisting, " I will not serve! " 

Such a love of absolute independence disturbs our 
judgment, hinders us in understanding our .dutv apfl rerVfilB 
the will under the pretence of making^tB* tre^,^quM\o 
God and independent like Him. This is, evidently, the 
great aim of the modern world which rebels against the 
©feccrft^&WMe •>itwagt4tes^U«^ , i%Ht> against avarice, seeking 
to better the lot of the poor and to repress its own 
c&rsei 1 - mki&t§,H ^wYsK^, 4ieve$r!&ess, to do all it does 

by itself, wi % u | n , el P A °* ^ wor ^ intends, 

Mainly, $ ob^g'^as^ri^^^e^^^^not God. 

Althou|^ the modern world may be described as ratio- 

^^vKv^W^I^^AwH 13 " ? be 7 God - ^ 
pretended absolute independency pushes it into all types 

of slavery and the worst type of tyranny: that of rebellious 

passions and unjust laws passed without any recourse to 

conscience. Such legislation is aimed at the self-interest of 

thle fte*ty'3ih vtpo'wWj a^ain«t'rl^h*-li>^d5gt^nKMkMs' •!& 

pdsslbilby! o^'^n^kBtidni -since' absolute and'Jfe*errki';ju*lid 

is rejected, and the rights of God are repudiated! " 

General obedience to the commandments of God and 
His Church is the sole efficacious 1 remedy for this anarchy 
and f^raJ^^cManittrftast fundetstiand 1 fetl'Godyfodflfffi* 
creator, has ^sov<*feign ! right over him; r^^sV'^dfcfciiand 
that his intelligent ; and hfel Will Were ''created only''to 
kmbpterfU ■W&Wsm'n&iAK ^dg^^3*fetafou&6rn4il 
Bfenaad i^efliev^tifud&ozib 11b \o 123vbi§ adl a Jl 
■y>\W4> 'ffiuSt i*ckriowi«dgevr!«hk, b*hatPthe ^fcoilsl 4s>-'OUf 
Master and that it is Our duty to obey Him. Besides, His 
law- does not produce violence but proceeds from His love 
aTSd' produces love^Ir^ ttUSP folly bfO : rebel against <ibffl 
tohich :afotte>cawTead u^'tttf&ap^iifesSKirnoo rbirlv/ Mr// bni; 

This general obedience if ees- us already from the main 
slaved o^ruthb'woM; feilf^oJ^yS'dGod'^nderstkridsj 
tlle'ni- thldt ih the final analysis he cannot' 'and Wiust not 



obey i;any. xitherljtharii Godljand jHdsorepresentativesV spiritual 
andrHempbrali-How, ebuld//he really obey men; who -are 1 his 
equals? He clearly sees that he nros^nevecrbbeyra human 
law; that is contrary tOf.theilawMof jGod.liandidhal/talihoman 
law has I no authority! except .insofar asiit is baised on, divine 
laWisaJ^lapjin^sldiiOB^akavbBgan add ylno isbiznoo ol bsrlp.iv/ 
But this general obedience is insufficient for some souls. 
The commandments of God and the Church lay down , for 
us rthei wbjsQhk leads atb heaven; but there are different 
ways,, more or less perfect, of practicing; the ^commandments 
of the Lord, of loving Him > with; ^ -all'.. but: heart andu,<jf 
loving our neighbor. These commandments lay down only 
the .general , butl toe, j precisely i : that they mayl^rrapplidable 
to all. However, when an individual soul seeks to know 
exactly what God demands of it in a determined 
circumstance, the matter is not so simple. One runs the 
risk of being mistaken and letting oneself be invaded by 
the spirit of the world, by its prejudices and maxims. 

Mm wliaFyou o^ 1 ^aTe^o'&seff , fo^W ! ffie r ^ 
this with certlMifc 

fefe.^e^ectf ! v ^e W&iS M He' *Ms& 

guided her in all the particulars of her life.. 

to Jits/ 3rli_oJ bsrnioindo, Jon at ipiriv/.isru ai Wv/r-Wpz z oqO 
What Our Lord did directly with some saints,, H 

moil au. Miejiiuag rtoitl.v/. :oc mi ,ok "o i>amo™5rli grir'.boi 

moil an. 2^7G"LKfJ33 nomw. job 3ru ,ni« io tmiio^sm aT3T'.bOi7 

making the vow of obedience, the religious makes a contract 

jY^afk&r^d.^norM tfrfo 9rjdqrs fJ .pf ri |9yjiS^pe|i^ ^^^Wjj 

order given by You, as;, by ( a divine word. " The Lord 
responds: " You will have in exchange the holy liberty of 
the sons of God, you will be freed from all slavery of the 
world. " In brief, this is the meaning of holy! obedience. 



Such obedience has been strongly criticized by Naturalism, 
even more than the other vows. Naturalism has main- 
tained that the cause of all our weaknesses is lack of 
personality; but this attitude betrays a false concept of 
religious obedience. To maintain its thesis, Naturalism has 
wished to consider only the negative aspect of holy obedience, 
that is, the separation it demands. If it had considered what 
it has that is positive, that is, the consecration that assures 
full conformity of our will to the will of God, then it 
would have recognized both that there is no personality 
more wonderful than that of the saints, and that this is 
the fruit of their obedience. 

To comprehend well the true nature of holy obedience, 
it must be considered, as with the other vows, under its 
two aspects of separation and consecration. 


Holy poverty and holy chastity involve, as we have said, 
the mortification of the body, the senses, and the heart. 
Holy obedience involves above all the mortification of one's 
own will and one's own judgment. Thus, it can be rightly 
affirmed that the three vows organize in a permanent way 
both the interior and exterior mortifications. 

We know well the dangers deriving from our self-will. 
St. Catherine of Siena has repeatedly insisted on this subject. 
One's self-will is that which is not conformed to the will of 
God. It is the source of sin, the act which separates us from 
God. St. Bernard says that if self-will is suppressed, hell 
will no longer have reason to exist. But self-will is dangerous 
especially because it can ruin all our actions. What is best 
in us becomes reprehensible when it is mixed with that 
will which seeks itself as an end instead of subordinating 
itself to God. 

If God finds self-will present in an act of mortification, 
for example in fasting, it is not accepted by Him; if He 



sees self-will as the basis of a sacrifice, the sacrifice is none 
other than a He and an abomination to Him. Such is the 
value of every act done out of pride — work done that it 
may be seen by the eyes of men. Now we can see that the 
vow of obedience assures the mortification of this dangerous 
will that diverts us from salvation. 

In the religious life, it is not enough to obey exteriorly, 
with an obedience of action; the adhesion of the will is 
required. It is necessary to subject our will to that of the 
superior (cf. Bourdaloue). In fact, exterior obedience or 
obedience of action without the adhering of the will is only 
a slavish obedience, that of a slave, of a servant who is 
only obligated to do exteriorly what is commanded him. 

Our obedience ought to be the obedience of a son and a 
friend. " I no longer call you servants, but friends. " Indeed, 
we did not enter the monastery to place ourselves under 
an external discipline, as in a barracks; we came to conform 
our will to the will of God. 

" An obedience that is merely external, without the sub- 
jection of the will, has no value in the eyes of God. It is 
the letter, the body of obedience but this body is only a 
corpse if the spirit does not give it life " (Bourdaloue). 
Exterior obedience, or obedience of action, is none other 
than servitude if adhesion of the will is lacking. It does 
not become a virtue unless it is directed by the will in free 
submission to the will of God. When an order that is 
repugnant to our nature is received, external obedience 
becomes a virtue if our will freely immolates itself to the 
will of God. St. Gregory was able to say that this sacrifice 
is greater than all those of the Old Law, because at that 
time only victims were immolated while now we immolate 
our will. 

This submission of the will ought to be manifested ex- 
ternally in three ways: it ought to be prompt, universal, 
and without distinction of person. 


an'.it auglititc»;.be.(/»roOTpt/;:.Tiiis derives from the: honor and 
dignity ro£ him who commands. The higher the dignity of 
him- : iwh<a"Corflmands T jibe-, greater) the 'offense.) /caused .'toy 
slowness in carrying out.'the.ordefisi Obedience,' to be perfect, 
ought to anticipate, in a certain sense,; the order and respond 
promptly to it. .nobcvlfiz rrioii zu airavib JBfn Hi ;/ 


depart though knowing that they would be going to meet 
—ho were able to.. 20 wept, with. ]oy, and * 

illowmg their brethren , in giving test 

?a oriw JBB-/33?. B,ito jSVEla lo iBm .^onsiE^do rMvBi? b 
mony.with their blood. , , . . tj r 

.Obedience ought, to. be universal and without , limits, — 

both in great and in little things, however easy or duticult 

jbaabril tRbnsET itjcl ^incv.'iaa ffov. U£0 laanol on. J .brwiy 

thev may be, 
* vwi t am 

is nothing. And, in fact, it is nothing considered in ltseff. 
But, as constituent part of an order given by God it becomes 

away ; ffiEHe 9 l 6u#ti!¥"iP^^ 5 f 
b mio S -/feud *uu M 95n3*Wo \,vM^n^ w iajat 
totality to God, and God, as lsaias says . hates , in a special 

way the sacrilegious robbery, of part or ,a .holocaust 

pi? plS^^#«^^^^S s faith 1$ 

sl?yarif ..wfio ^obeyed "in .^t'de r \ thri^s enter into heaven: 
a f^ou,' have shown yqu^,cm'']be\r'aitMul in small things '' I 
JpjyfH w{th r fel{erf come and join W$tffiNn 

MWpft T,. 

" >rT Obedience should be made without distinction of person. 

holy or less perfect — because through the word of the 
one or of another it is always God who speaks. We have 
madW-'tKe^vM' to : 6%ef [ md} [ 'mt^ creature! 

To obey a person because he is congenial to us, and not 
to do this when he ceases to be, is no longer obedience 


to God, and is not at all meritoridus. The saints* who 
never neglect , the imor-tufication of their Own will, tell us: 

your nature, because it could happen; that the principal 
motive 'of-^lonf jacc /is itsnnatufal attractiony.iamd'theri; the 
fattt ©f obedience) ifa lostidnz OJ dguons ton ; is t tx>hsq 
-iii^ti K'3aseltes,",ih fotintoi;feUpW'.)<rann^ 
necessary to adhere to the will of our superior, that is, to 
the will of God. We should rejoice, then, when what is 
commanded i us is contrary ten our., matures because I then the 
sacrifice: of our will is much more certain, much purer, and 
more? fekceHent,'.'So:i let. us prefer : a:i superior who opposes 
us, and tests us, a superior .fiimi and r'seveiie^7td> another 
more moderate and more indulgent. St. John of the Cross, 
gravely. iilL and nearly i dying;.-! had the (possibility iof choosing 
between twoimonasteries. the prior was his, friend; 
iaothe< .other,- :a bitter enemy, John of the Gross chose btfcfa 
Jati^o^G^akJy^sbbisnitiDt i necessary to act like this great 
saint,' but we all ought to be. scrupulously careful so as not 
JP te&io&fc Aifkfc ^adbe^ejisaei g .bmd isdio adi no ,11 
alimcl^ §tfnftone Zti&sflttmi «?^3fe6«jS€>U«te^€te and msfSt 
intrigue, induces his superior to do. what he, wishes and to 
PW%.9ftMw certain-offic^^.ia.pqt^ obedienqe^ 

mSfeitewA gra^^i 81 ^ it is, . not ym<J"W 
are obeying a sq^'ripr,^^ .a i^j^fi9 r ,.'^?jf?, c -9veyiD ] g jyou). 
Both will have to ar^et^fo^&A ^irM^lSlff 
succeed in your office because God does not judge on the 
basis or your .success, but on the basis of your conformity 
His will. " " Concern over success. " says Bourdaloue with 
pect to this question, " is a concern that ought to be left 

te'WonP'Buiyl (Hants', 1 tSNbey!** 01 * 6 lRriol3G1 20 ^ Bm 
4 ft -bnild ad 01 jdguo aansibsdo .zoY " .bnoqasi SW 

io .yffefic* J 9uteffiis1bh ^tfee^mj>'hbwever,' i§ r n6i: enough. 
Tt is still necessary to sacrifice one's own judgment, one's 
reason; the highest part of oneself . And it is only thus that 



our sacrifice merits the name of holocaust. The holocaust 
was the most perfect sacrifice because the totality of the 
victim was offered to God: all was consumed in the fire, 
even to total destruction. The same must happen in the 
interior sacrifice of holy obedience. For obedience to be 
perfect, it is not enough to submit the will; it is also 
necessary to submit one's judgment to that of one's legiti- 
mately constituted superior who commands rightly. Without 
this submission of judgment, obedience runs the risk of 
losing all the qualities required to constitute its value. It 
runs the risk of being neither generous, nor prompt, nor 
universal. In addition, it loses sight of the fact that basically 
it is God who is commanding. 

If this submission of our own judgment is refused, the 
spirit of criticism will not delay in making us completely 
lose the merit of our acts and, at the same time, in intro- 
ducing the spirit of division into the community. If someone 
assumes the right of censoring all that does not please him, 
it is certain that for him there can be no true obedience. 
If, on the other hand, a religious obeys solely because it 
seems that the given order is reasonable — if he submits 
because of human reasons — he or she is certainly not 
performing an act of obedience. Similarly, one would not 
be making an act of faith in admitting the existence of 
God as a result of a rational demonstration. 

Holy obedience (I do not say all types of obedience, 
but holy obedience) involves the submission of will and 
judgment to the will and judgment of God as expressed 
by our superior. " Then, " you may say, " obedience ought 
to be blind. But how can we renounce those lights that 
make us rational beings? " The masters of the spiritual 
life respond: " Yes, obedience ought to be blind. It is 
enough to be certain that the given order is not sinful, or 
contrary to the divine law or the expressed order of a 
higher authority. We have made this contract with God: 



All that is commanded me by my legitimate superior and 
is not contrary to your law, I oblige myself to consider as 
a divine word, as a divine order. " 

To satisfy the legitimate needs of reason, it is enough 
to be assured that the order comes from God. Once this is 
established, holy obedience ought to be blind like that 
of Abraham who, at the Lord's command, prepared to 
immolate his son, Isaac. " Religious obedience is sufficient 
for salvation when it submits itself to the rule (secundum 
regulam) in obligatory things, and it is perfect when it 
submits in things permitted; it would be imprudent if it 
induced our soul to submit to illicit things " (5. T. II-II, 
q. 104, a. 5 ad 3). 

The same is true for holy obedience as for supernatural 
faith. Supernatural faith is, in a certain sense, blind; it is 
enough to know that the obscure mystery proposed to us 
conies from God. Il is a happy blindness, immensely superior 
to clearness of reason, because this night of faith and humble 
obedience diffuses its own light — that of the gifts of wisdom 
and understanding. " And night is my illumination in my 
delight." The obedient religious can say: " This night 
becomes for me a light wholly divine and fills me with joy, 
giving me certainty that I am fulfilling the will of God." 

" But," say others, " sometimes it happens that what is 
commanded us is absurd and obviously imprudent, com- 
mitting us to work evidently destined for failure." It can 
be answered: " You are unaware of many reasons that can 
motivate the given order; sometimes there are a hundred 
matters pertaining to the general welfare about which you 
know nothing; you are not in a position to judge, since you 
do not have the grace of state as do your superiors. Moreover, 
it may be that your superior wishes to and ought to test the 
quality of your obedience. Finally, it may be that the given 
order, considered in itself, is imprudent and comes from 
a prejudice or defect of our superior; yet, it is still not 
contrary to divine law." Does this order, then, come from 



God? Yes, certainly; God often leaves defects :in; superibrs 
to kebprtkem 1 humble and! to tlesf/the: subjects, ton ei 

The thing commanded, considered > in itself, may be 'im- 
prudent and inopportune;- but holy obedience does not 
eommand you! to 'approve of it as such, or to continue to 
haire 'it:' practiced if later you become superiors. Judge, 
then, the -thing commanded for what it is in itself. However, 
convince yourself -also that it is commanded you by God*, 
and tell yourself that at that moment it is for you whac is 
better, more reasonable, indeed ihe only reasonable thing 
to Ho.ifiabLnqmi ad bluow li ibjifirmaq ggnirll ni aiirndua 
They command ybu, perhaps,- to interrupt your prayer to 
do some manual work that could also be done later, as 
happened; -often to St.; Margaret Mary. But, it is the Voice 
of God that is speaking.- There is nothing better for you. 
Your superior can make a mistake, but ybu will never make 
a>mistake: you will immolate not only your will, but also 
ybuiriijudgmeritj This is what God commands you. Do : not 
be anxious about success; it is Up to divine Providence to 
taiencarKii<rfr:tlratiIiand!iEiwillijocifcfifeil' tqnjfonstKiabnij bn 

Finally, if there as some inconvenience thdti is notable 
and, above all, seemingly contrary to the general welfare, 
you are not forbidden humbly: -to isubmit your difficulties - to 
your superior. Open your soul to him after you have prayed, 
reflected and purified your intention. This simplicity enhances 
your obedience. If your superior persists; do not doubt that 
the better thing for you is to obey. Such is ! the- twofold 
notification of will and -judgment that holy obedience 
linyoHresi'.'/ mod/; siultav/ hnansg adi oj jmiriifiiisq aisimn 
uoy aonia .agbuj oi nobtsoq n ni ion aifi uoy ;j>mdlon v/on>l 
JSwmMioH'^W* ™°Y ob an lb -swig arh aver! jon afi 
srli iK3J 01 jdguo bne 01 jorkiv/ tonaqn?. mov ierij 3d vnm li 

But this twofold mortification has as its end the conse- 
cration of our will and judgment to-God;, their' identification 
^Iri s<^T»e -vwayiw^ the : will and judgment of God, and -our 
consequent liberation from all the slaveries of the world. 



Gertdinly gcheral obedience, by conforming our will to that 
ofjtGodi, £rde# ufe&oro the! obligation /'of submitting to 
unjust laws, enables us to reign over our passions, over 
the: world, whbse maxims and vain attractions we despise, 
and over the devil, whose temptatiorfslwe<:rJe^ulbfc)g jasruq 
ifirfjAArlqif 'M\ isirtroe/lte: say of obedience in general that 
?j«o serve, God;is to .•reign," with greater reason- this cari- be 
said! o£ . religious • obedience. ; Religious obedience, assuring 
the full conformity- of our will to the divine will, perfectly 
frees us from all the slaveries of the world. It especially 
frees us! frbm.ourselves and from our passions: and. prejudices. 
These' would hinder our freedom to direct ourselves toward 
the truly good things, to make us free as God Himself, 
dependent on Him alone and independent of all else. 
^djAsGarlmdioIdratoiirohceifsaid that the . vow of obediende 1 
is the Tabor of the will, the glorious manifestation of a 
human freedom identified !.with'idiyirib; freedom, ©ur Lord 
did notiiritend anything other than this when He promised 
us; *• the - holy: i reedom bfj n the ( sons ,iof/ God j 'hd he /freedom 
to run ori . the , path ! of the good arid along the road of 
perfection for which liberty is made. The vow is, therefore, a 
sovereignly! free act of love for the good, and of contempt 
and hatred for all that is contrary to- the good. 

St. Catherine of Siena says that the truly obedient are 
the children i !liiifltjJest)U5::spokeix)f; when He said^ > ."• Leti. the 
lkde-bnes eotne'to Me, because 'theirs:, is the kingdom of 
heaven.": Whoever does:' not bumble himself asaahchild in 
the-! simplicity r!of obedience will not enter the kingdom of 
heaven; he will remain a slave of his passions, a slave- of 
the world, of: the devil, of his will ; and . of his prejudices-; 
.lbTtogiether /inith this iliberationyiholyilobedience offers:] tos 
theiqoyi;oijnbeiiagVjtble:> tobisayi'evBh here belowiiinoJ: am 
doing all that God wills,: and can do nothing better. " It is 
the joy of doing one's: duty even- in the smallest acts. 
The value of each act is great, so that even recreation and 



sleep are sanctified, since they are commanded by God and 
we take them only for the love of God. What is there 
more secure than obedience? Even the Psalmist exclaims: 
" Yes, I love Your commandments more than gold, than 
purest gold " (Ps. 119, 127). 

Besides the joy of feeling ourselves on the path that 
leads to God, holy obedience gives us the strength and 
boldness of the saints. And in this case also, the hundredfold 
is received; our will, for having renounced itself, has become 
strong from the very strength of God. Modernism speaks 
of initiative, but forgets that the true initiative, that which 
bears fruit in the supernatural order, is born of obedience. 

The obedient religious applies himself to learning what 
God wishes from him. Once he finds out, nothing stops him. 
He can attempt what is humanly impossible because the 
grace of God is with him. Hence our blessed father St. Domi- 
nic sent his sons to all parts of the world, saying to them: 
" Go on foot, without money, without anxieties for 
tomorrow, begging your food; and I promise you that, 
despite difficulties and want, you will never lack what is 

How many times the divine power has miraculously come 
to place itself at the service of obedience! The Lord was 
pleased to recall these examples to St. Catherine of Siena: 
" Have you not read in Sacred Scripture that many, not 
to transgress the order of God, threw themselves in flames, 
and the flames did them no harm? So it was with the three 
children thrown in the furnace, and so with many others 
I could mention. The water became solid under the feet of 
St. Maurus when, out of obedience, he went to save a 
religious who was drowning. He did not think of himself. 
He thought, in the light of faith, of performing an order 
he had received. He went over the water as if he were 
walking on land, and he saved the religious " (Dial. 
chap. 165). 



Finally, obedience, conforming our judgment to the 
judgment of God, makes us wiser than the wisest of the 
world. The Psalmist can say: " How much subtler than my 
teachers, through my meditating on Your decrees! How 
much more perceptive than the elders, as a result of my 
respecting Your precepts! " (Ps. 119, 98 ff.) The humble 
novice in his obedience is more intelligent and prudent 
than the so-called incredulous who confide in themselves. 
Obedience frees us at the same time from the influence of 
the judgments of men and liberates us from our prejudices, 
from our scruples, and from our bewilderment. If our 
conduct is criticized, with all security and humility we can 
let others say what they wish. God is with us. 

It is certainly possible to compare holy obedience to the 
Holy Eucharist. In the one as well as in the other, the Word 
is certainly present, hidden under earthly or human appear- 
ances: in the Eucharist, hidden under the species of bread 
and wine; in the order of our superior, hidden under the 
appearance of a human person. In the one case as in the 
other, the Word comes to enlighten us, to strengthen us, to 
draw us tenderly to Himself and assimilate us to Himself. 

We should learn to obey in the light of faith, just as 
we receive Holy Communion in the light of faith. We should 
learn to see God always in the person of our superiors, to 
recognize the signal of God in the bell that calls us. Thus, 
day by day, our will will die and eventually lose itself in 
the will of God that is infinitely holy, free, strong, and 
blessed. Day by day our judgment will also die and give way 
to that spirit of wisdom, understanding, and counsel that 
litde by little transforms our meditation into contemplation 
and nourishes our charity with a food more and more divine. 

Thus, through mortification and renunciation we will 
attain the light of union with God. The daily practice of 
the religious life will lead us to the goal of all spiritual life: 
toward a more and more intimate contemplation and an 
increasingly ardent love for God. 


aril oj msrngbuj uro gnirnioinoa .aDnsibado ,vlbnrl 
3fli lo Jasaiw ^dj nedi i3aiw au asjbm .boO lo Jiremgbuj 
vm rusdi isbdua riourn v/oH " :vbz nea jaimlEal aHT .bhov/ 
v/oH ! 333133b iuoY no gniJBJibarn vrri riguoidi .eiadonoj 
lo dluasi b 2E .aisbb srb nKrij avijqaoiaq storn dourn 
uldmurl sdT (.1189 ,911 .ai) " laiqsaaiq u/oY gnbosqasi 
insbuiq bnc msgilbmi siom ai 33n3ibsdo arrl ni 33ivon 
.aavbamarb ni sbftnoo odv/ auolubsiani bslba-oa sdj nsrli 
lo sonounni sdi moil srail 3mfia srli is au assil S'jnsibjdO 
,233ibu(3iq iuo moil au asJBiadil briG n^m lo alnDrngbuj aril 
iuo II .tfiarrnabliwsd mo moil briB .aolqinoa mo moil 
nB3 3w '(lilirnurl bnB ynuma IIb rbtv/ .bssbiiho at loubnoo 
.au rliiv/ ai boO .rlaiv/ vsdi jbHv/ vsa aisrfjo Jsl 
3rd oi sonsibsdo vlod s-rnqmoD oj sldiaaoq yIriiF.m3 ai il 
bioW 3dl .isHlo sdl ni afi Usptt zh sno 3rb ni .JahcdouH vIoH 
-tBsqqE nBmud io vldiics rjbnu nobbiri .jnaaoiq vlnbliSD ai 
bund lo asioaqa arb labnu rwbbid .lahfidouH srii ni rasanB 
sdi isbnu nabbirl ,ioii3qua iuo lo 73bio orli ni ;3niw bos 
3H3 ni aB 3aeo 3no sd] ni .noaisq nsmud g lo sonBisaqqe 
oJ .au n3dign3iia oj ,au n33dgilri3 oj asmoo bsoW adl ,i3rbo 
.IbarniH oj eja sjbH miaaG bnB IbacniH oj vjisbnaj au v/ntb 
28 Jau( ,d]bl lo Jdgil 3dj ni <{sdo 01 rnEal bluoda 
bluoda sW .djbl lo idgil ad] ni noinummoD vJoH ivhtxn svr 
01 ,aioii3qua wo lo noaiaq orb ni z^swlc boO 33a 01 mBsI 
,audT .au alba icdj [bd 3d] ni boO lo bngia adi ssutgopsi 
ni Ibaii saol vjbujnsva bnB sib lliv/ lliv/ iuo ,'(Bb yd veb 
bnB .gnotJa ,331! ,ybd vbiir.flrii ai jRdi boO lo lliv/ ad] 
yew svig bnB aib oals lliv/ insnigbuj iuo ynb vd vbQ .baaasld 
3Bdi banuou brm .gnibnBlaisbnu .mobaiv/ lo miqa iBrlj 03 
noi)Glqm3jno3 onii noilBJibsm iuo arrnolanfiii sluil vd sbiil 
.snivib 3iom bnB siom bool b dliw 'nherb iuo aodai-uion bnB 
Ulw sw noiiBtDnunsi bne noilBDrlinom dguoidj ,audT 
lo soboGiq ylhb orlT .boO rbiv/ noinu lo idgil adi nisur, 
rslil Ifiuiiiiqa lb lo bog sdj oj au basl lliv/ alii anoigibi sdi 
ns bns noijslqmsinoo siGrnimi s-iom bns siom g biGwoi 

.boO iol 3voI Jnabis '/[gniaBSiani 


The Cross 

If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine, 
let him renounce himself and take up 
his cross and follow Me.—Mt. 16, 24 

We have reflected on the necessity of active mortification 
in our life and on the value of mortification organized in a 
permanent way in the religious life through the practice of 
the three vows. Our Lord alluded to this when He said: 
" Let him renounce himself "; but He also added: " and 
take up his cross." It is not enough, then to deny ourselves 
and mortify ourselves. We must also carry patiently the 
cross that the Lord gives us for purifying ourselves and 
saving souls. 

That which we call " the cross " in Christian terminology 
(by analogy with the sufferings and death of our divine 
Master) are the physical and moral sufferings of daily life 
which arise from our relationship to the exterior world and 
to those around us. They are especially those sent to us 
directly by God in order to purify us and save souls. Like 
the Cross imposed on Jesus by His Father, they are the 
price of our salvation. " He was humbler yet, even to accept- 
ing death, death on a cross " (Phil. 2, 8). 

The necessity of the cross in Christian life is due to the 
fact that we carry somewhere within ourselves the seeds of 
a profound evil, but we do not know exactly where these 
principles of death are to be found. Even when we are 
mortified and have made every effort to be regular and 
fervent in the religious life, a great number of unconscious 



defects remain in us: spiritual sensuality and spiritual pride, 
attachment to one's own judgment and will, etc. All of these 
hinder us from being what we ought to be — living images 
of Jesus Christ. What an abyss between a religious who 
is simply ordinary and one who is a saint! This abyss is 
bridged by the cross born in patience. 

Our Lord knows better than we where evil is harbored 
within us. Wishing to heal us, He sends us His messengers 
to admonish us, and He Himself sets the iron to our 
wounds to extract all the sources of corruption from them. 
Even if we were not sick, He would send the cross to 
detach us from affections that are certainly legitimate, but 
which hinder us from becoming totally supernatural. 

Finally, He sends us the cross that we may be of help 
to Him as instruments of redemption. If we wish to save 
souls, we must use the same means that Our Lord used. 
Christ appeared to St. Rose of Lima on the day of her 
investiture under the guise of a sculptor and asked her 
to help Him work a block of marble. The saint replied 
that she knew only how to weave and cook. Then Our Lord 
let her understand that that block of marble, still unformed 
and rough, was she herself, and that she ought to have 
patience and let herself be worked and smoothed so as to 
become the image of her divine Master, a precious stone 
in the eternal city of souls. 

The necessity of the cross is proportionate to the level 
of glory to which God wishes to lead us. Some people that 
we wrongly and with a sense of compassion call " tor- 
mented souls," live in the midst of almost continual sufferings 
because Our Lord wishes to lead them much higher than 
others that are not tormented but easily contented. " The 
more God loves us," say all the saints, " the heavier the 
crosses that He sends us." 

Patience is the virtue of the saints (cf. St. Theresa 
and Tauler). " Life to me, of course, is Christ, but then 
death would bring me something more " (Phil. 1, 21). 


The spiritual life does not acquire a definite intensity 
without a profound death, which God alone can produce 
in us. 

To bear the cross patiently we must have an understand- 
ing of it and see its purpose. Hence, it is not useless to 
know the different ways by which God tries individuals 
to purify them. There are some crosses that have for their 
purpose the purification of our sensibility and its complete 
submission to the spirit. Such crosses are frequent and 
common to many persons, especially to beginners. There 
are others that are heavier and have for their purpose 
the full purification of our spirit and its submission to 
God. These are given only to a small number already 
advanced in the interior life. 

Crosses of Sensibility 

One of the greatest imperfections of beginners is spiritual 
sensuality and spiritual pride. We are attached inordinately 
to the sensible sweetness that we find in devotion, seeking 
it as an end and not as a simple means of going to God. 
We boast of our perfection and judge others very severely. 
We put on airs like masters, while we remain only poor 

Our Lord finds it necessary to wean us, to take away 
the milk of sensible consolations in order to give us a more 
substantial food, a more spiritual food. Our sensibility 
then finds only aridity and desolation. And thus we become 
also more humble, no longer judging others with such 
severity, and not putting on airs like masters. 

This aridity should never throw us into discouragement, 
for if it is accompanied by detachment from the world 
and by habitual recollection of God, it is a proof, says 
St. John of the Cross, that it does not come from our 
lukewarmness. Rather, it is a gain for us: " For me to 
live is Christ, and to die is gain." This cross teaches us 



to serve God for Himself, with unselfishness, and it pre- 
serves us from the illusions of the devil. 

To purify our sensibility, God dispenses other crosses 
also. He can send us sicknesses, deprive us of a friendship 
that perhaps absorbed us beyond measure, take away certain 
honors, or an office, for example, that seemed due us. 
But above all He despoils us of the goods on which we 
had concentrated our affection, and mercifully comes to 
ask us for this part of our love that we had not thought of 
giving Him. When this emptying is insufficient, He mercifully 
permits little or great persecutions on the part of men, and 
the temptations of the devil. 

Yet what are the little crosses we have to carry in 
comparison to those of the saints? We should recall our 
great St. Peter Martyr who was visited in his cell by 
some saintly women. For this he was accused in the chapter 
of an infamous offense which he had not committed. 
The saint did not wish to reveal the heavenly graces with 
which he was favored and so he listened to the severe 
reproach of his prior without speaking a word. He was 
banished from the priory in Bologna and relegated to Iesi 
in the zone of Le Marche. The infamy weighed heavily 
upon him, gravely dishonoring him. The saint complained 
to the Lord. One day, prostrate at the foot of his crucifix, 
with his eyes flooded with tears, he exclaimed: " My Jesus, 
You know my innocence. How can You permit such a 
false accusation to dishonor my reputation? " The voice from 
the crucifix answered: " Was I not abandoned to oppro- 
brium and overwhelmed with insults despite My innocence? 
Learn from My example to bear the harshest calumnies! 
From that day onward, St. Peter Martyr understood through 
experience the mystery of the Cross and all its splendors. 
From that humiliation, which was a visit from God, he 
learned much more than from the heavenly favors of those 
holy visitors who were the cause of that humiliation. 



When what we are and what we have done for the 
community is not acknowledged, when our good intentions 
are misunderstood, we should remember St. Benedict Labre. 
A coadjutor of the Society of Jesus who was struck by 
the fervor of that poor man of Christ, wished to meet and 
talk with him, but the latter withdrew himself. Every 
testimony of sympathy wounded the humility of his soul. 
On the other hand, when some urchins threw refuse upon 
him and treated him as a fool, he slowed his pace and 
even stopped, to savor this mortification. At times certain 
young ruffians were not content with insults. One day two 
of them threw him to the ground and, after pulling his 
beard and hair, trampled on him and spat in his face. 
The saint did not seek to defend himself or free himself. 
Some passers-by, becoming indignant, drove off the young 
delinquents. " He is a fool," they said. " Why shouldn't 
we have fun with him? " " You are the fools," a woman 
courageously replied. " He is a saint. " The poor man of 
Christ had become a fool, a fool of the divine foolishness 
of the Cross, which is supreme wisdom in the eyes of God. 

The crosses that we have to bear are much lighter, 
because we are not called to such an exalted level of 
sanctity. We ought to have the humility of not asking God 
for crosses superior to our strength, but of bearing patiently 
those the Lord sends us, those He asks us to bear. Jesus 
has said to all: " If you wish to follow Me, deny yourself 
and carry your cross." 

The cross that purifies our sensibility by elevating it 
and subjecting it more and more perfectly to the spirit, 
helps us to know ourselves better. It reveals to us our 
unworthiness and weakness, teaches us to despise ourselves 
and consider ourselves, as St. Paul suggests, inferior to 
others. It teaches us, also, to know God better, no longer 
through sensible consolations but through tribulations. As 
a result, it is no longer the Jesus of the manger, but He 
on the Cross, who reveals Himself to us through our own 



experience. Thus we begin truly to love God, who is 
purely spiritual, and the exigencies of His love, which is 
purely spiritual. Doing this our whole being becomes 

Crosses of the Spirit 

There are other still heavier crosses that weigh only on 
those individuals much advanced in the interior life. These 
are crosses that it is good to know about — not that we 
may ask the Lord for them, but that we may see how 
far we are from the summits of love and how foolish our 
spiritual pride is when it wishes to make us believe that 
we are advanced in the way of perfection. 

The Holy Spirit Himself has judged it useful to reveal 
these terrible crosses to all in the incomparable book of 
Job. These alone enable us to comprehend the sense of 
certain exclamations of Our Lord on Calvary. From such 
crosses we also learn what kind of sufferings await us in 

The purpose of these crosses is not so much to spiri- 
tualize our sensibility, as to supernaturalize our spirit. 
These crosses serve to detach the spirit from itself and 
to subject it to God in such a way that it is transformed, 
so to speak, into Him in the same way that wood, 
becoming prey to the fire, warms and illumines like the 
fire (St. John of the Cross). These crosses of the spirit, 
sent directly by God, make the superior part of the soul 
suffer. The means God uses to purify us is a supernatural 
light, so living and so intense that the eyes of the soul, 
still not strong enough to bear it, are dazzled and blinded 
by it, experiencing an acute suffering from it, as happens 
to the owl that is dazzled and blinded by too much sunlight. 

But this mysterious divine light, though it is blinding, 
makes one see. First of all it makes the soul see what it 
is in reality, showing it the unsuspected depths of its 



misery. Then, in contrast, it reveals God in His transcendence 
and infinite purity. This revelation is in a manner so entirely 
new, though very obscure, that the soul seems bedazzled, 
no longer seeing the relationship between this knowledge 
and that which it formerly enjoyed. Although it is elevated 
by its labors toward the light, it seems to the person that 
it is more and more engulfed by the night. 

Now we shall see how Our Lord purifies, in this painful 
ascent, the humility of the saints, their faith, their hope, 
and their charity, that is, the virtues proper to the higher 
degrees of the soul and spirit. In this way we shall discover 
how superficial and imperfect our humility, faith, hope, 
and charity still are. 

God teaches humility directly to the saints, revealing 
Himself to them, showing them the abyss that separates 
them from Him. We should also learn humility by contem- 
plating the life of the saints and measuring the abyss that 
separates us from them. 

Humility is the basis of the whole spiritual edifice. In 
order that a structure may be solid and lasting, it is necessary 
that the foundation be very deep. The foundation stone 
of the whole spiritual edifice is faith. Almost all of us are 
now content to place this stone on the ground and to 
build on top of it; but this is not enough — the edifice 
will not endure. At times we understand very clearly that 
it is necessary to excavate deeply; and yet we are content 
to hardly scratch the surface, so that after some years in 
the religious life the edifice is barely more solid than at 
the beginning, and a storm is enough to destroy the whole. 
Consequently, it is necessary to excavate deeply. Humility 
does this. 

When Our Lord wishes to build a tall spiritual edifice 
in a person, He Himself looks to the excavating, and to 
such a depth that we do not even suspect. The dazzling 
supernatural light with which God blinds the individual 
reveals to it its miseries, its weaknesses, and its poverty. 



It sees that in itself it is nothing, and that by itself it 
can do nothing but err, sin, and return to nothingness. 
Blessed Angela of Foligno saw herself as an abyss of sin. 
At the same time the soul feels unable to do anything 
whatsoever for its own salvation. It has the impression 
that all it undertakes fails, while others are succeeding. 
It seems to it that, instead of advancing, it is going 

One day St. Benedict Labre began his confession with 
these words: " Father, I am a great sinner; help me make 
a good confession." The confessor, who did not know him, 
believed that he was dealing with a contrite sinner and 
began to encourage him. But in all that Benedict Labre 
said to him, he found no sin. He thought that the man 
did not know how to make a confession and so he asked 
a few questions on the Decalogue; but the very profound 
answers he received made him understand that he had a 
saint before him. 

St. Dominic scourged himself every night for his sins. 
These saints, however much Our Lord eventually exalted 
them, did not become proud; they experienced their own 

After having taught His saints by means of the cross 
to become meek and humble of heart, in His likeness, the 
Lord began to purify their faith. Faith is the virtue that 
consists in believing whatever God has revealed solely 
because God has revealed it. In fact, this is precisely the 
reason why we do believe even though there are also many 
other secondary motives that make the act of faith easier. 
For instance, we believe also because we experience in 
ourselves the action of God through the consolations He 
gives us and through the progress He has us make, or 
because the things we undertake for Him succeed, or 
because we see the harmony of the dogmas with one another 
and with the great natural truths. 



But let us suppose that God takes from us all these 
secondary motives so that we no longer experience His 
action in us. We feel nothing but aridity and desolation and 
we succeed in nothing we undertake, as happened to St. 
Dominic at Fanjeaux. Let us suppose that the harmony of 
doctrine disappears and gives way to a profound obscurity. 
Nothing remains any longer except the single motive of 
belief: God has spoken it and confirmed it with His 

In this way Our Lord tries the faith of His saints to 
purify it. The supernatural lights that He sends and with 
which He renders the dogmas luminous in an unexpected 
way, blinds them. Since they were formerly accustomed to 
believe in a rather superficial way, they now feel bewildered 
and even come to ask themselves whether they have not 
lost their faith. On this point Our Lord also permits temp- 
tations of the devil. 

Blessed Henry Suso had to undergo a temptation of this 
type for ten years. St. Vincent de Paul, who offered himself 
to save the soul of a poor priest, was so tempted on this 
point that he asked himself whether he would not end up 
by denying his faith. No longer successful in discerning 
whether he consented or not to the temptation, he put a 
pin in his sleeve, saying: " When I make the external action 
of drawing out this pin, I shall no longer believe." In the 
meantime, in the purity of his clouded faith and despite 
all the difficulties and objections, he believed with all his 
strength because of this one motive: " God has spoken it." 
He thus completed the painful immolation of his intelligence 
to the obscure divine word, and this act introduced him 
to a new world. Is it not necessary that the sun go down 
in order that the stars may be seen? In the same way, the 
habitual light of our reason must be extinguished so that 
pure faith may become the resplendent night that Sacred 
Scripture speaks of: " And night is my illumination in my 



After the purification of faith follows that of hope. 
Hope is the virtue that makes us desire to attain and 
possess God by trusting in His help. In reality, to attain 
heaven and to live our religious life we trust in God — 
that is the principal motive of hope. But we also trust 
in ourselves, in our virtues, in the success of our works, 
in our friends and in the help of our superiors. Yet, if 
God suddenly took away from us these human helps — our 
friends, affections, the esteem of our superiors — if He 
revealed to us our miseries and our weakness, would we 
still hope in Him? 

We should recall the example of St. John the Baptist, 
who, having announced the coming of the kingdom of God, 
was abandoned by all in his prison and saw the triumph of 
the wicked. Do you think that he did not have to fight 
against discouragement? St. John of the Cross almost aban- 
doned the work of reforming Carmel when in his prison 
he asked himself whether in the final analysis his persecutors 
were not right in opposing him. Blessed Angela of Foligno 
asked herself whether she had not given way to the temp- 
tation of despair. 

The saints hoped against every human hope because of 
this one motive: God is infinitely powerful and good. It is 
not He who abandons us first; He always wishes to raise 
us up again from our offences when our soul cries to Him. 
Thus Jesus purifies in the crucible of pain the hope of 
His most intimate friends. 

After hope it is charity's turn. Charity is the supreme 
virtue which makes us love God for Himself alone, because 
He is infinitely good and because He loved us first (cf. I 
Jn. 4, 10). This is the principal motive for which we love 
God. Yet, we also find many other secondary motives. 
For example, He gives us what we ask for, draws us to 
Himself, and makes the work undertaken for Him succeed. 

But if we had to love God in desolation, in obscurity, 
in the privation of all sensible and spiritual consolations; 



if we had to continue to love Him effectively, to accomplish 
all our duties and persevere in prayer only because He is 
infinitely good and died for us on the Cross, would we 
have the strength to make this sublime act of charity? 
When nothing any longer arises for the soul except bitter- 
ness, both from God and from men; when one is reduced 
to the same state as Our Lord when He exclaimed on the 
Cross, " My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? " 
then it is that the soul's act of love saves the world and it 
becomes, in a certain sense, co-redemptrix like the Sorrowful 
Mother. What incomparable grandeur of the saints, and 
how far we are from these summits! 

Consider the sailor's wife who does not stop thinking 
of her husband although he no longer sends any word that 
he is alive. She continues to love him in her sorrow as 
if he were present, not wishing to love anyone else, bring- 
ing up her children to love their father. If we admire her, 
how much more ought we to admire and love the bride 
of Christ who — like St. Rose of Lima, St. Theresa, 
St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi — remains fifteen or twenty 
years waiting for Jesus Christ to return to her soul, never 
ceasing to think of Him and to love Him with a love as 
strong as it is sorrowful. And all for the single motive that 
Jesus is infinitely good and died for us on the Cross! 

How to Carry the Cross 

From what we have said, we can develop the doctrine 
on the way to carry the cross. You, holy ones, brides of 
Christ, bring us to understand this mystery of the cross 
and the place it ought to occupy in our life. 

We know that we should not ask the Lord for crosses 
that He judges inopportune to send us because of our 
weakness. We know that we should not despise the small 
crosses, since the great ones can make us proud. We know 
that it is not enough to admire the crosses of the saints, 



and also that there is nothing more unsupportable than 
to put on airs of being martyrs when in reality we are not. 

We should, then, dismiss these deplorable illusions. 
We should no longer complain of suffering from the faults 
of others when we make others suffer even more. We should 
learn to bear the crosses that the Lord sends us: not those 
that are pleasing to us, but those pleasing to Him. We 
must teach ourselves to bear them with resignation, love, 
and gratitude. 

With resignation. It is indeed necessary to suffer. 
Modern progress, which seeks to suppress the cross like 
those " enemies of the cross " of whom St. Paul speaks 
(Phil. 3, 18), will never attain what it desires. Even if it 
did manage to diminish pain in the physical order, what 
can it do in the moral order? It is necessary to suffer. If we 
vex ourselves like the bad thief, our irritation will only 
increase our suffering. Our Lord asks us to allow Him to 
work — to allow Him to work to reproduce His image 
in us. 

With love. Our Lord does not ask us to love suffering 
in itself, but to love it as a means of salvation, just as a 
very bitter medicine that will give us back our health can 
be loved. We are not asked to feel this love in a sensible 
way, but to give proof of it by persevering, despite tribu- 
lations, in the practice of our religious duties, especially 
prayer. Jesus expects us to turn to him with ardent prayer, 
because He has already decided to hear us and to lead us 
much higher than we ourselves could desire. Therefore, 
we should love the cross for the love of souls and gladly 
accept being associated with Our Lord in His work of 

With gratitude. The cross is necessary for us. The Lord 
tries us only because He loves us, because He wishes to 
assimilate us to Himself, to spiritualize our sensibility, to 
supernaturalize our spirit, to give us a more exalted know- 



ledge of ourselves and of Him, and also to give us a 
stronger love. 

The active life is necessary but the cross is even more 
needed because through the cross our passive purification, 
under the action of God, is accomplished — and the action 
of God is much more fruitful than our own. Together with 
humility, the cross develops in us the three virtues which 
are properly divine and are the heart of the Christian life: 
faith, hope, and charity. The cross makes our soul similar 
to the soul of Christ, and therefore similar to God. 

Sometimes this effect of the cross is so sublime that it 
is reflected in the human body. St. Benedict Labre was 
passing through the streets of Rome one day when an 
artist, who had visited all the museums of Italy without 
finding what he was searching for, stopped him. He begged 
the saint to follow him and led him to his room. There, 
after he had painted the resemblance of the poor man of 
Christ, the artist knelt down, kissed his hands and 
exclaimed, " You have the face of Christ! " 

On another occasion, the poor saint was seen enveloped 
by a brilliant light. Emanating from his face were rays 
that shone with such a splendor that he seemed to be 
on fire. Such was the fruit of the cross in the soul of this 
saint. For such crosses the angels envy us, being unable to 
give God this testimony of love. The cross leads all 
Christians to the true light of God, the prelude to heaven: 
Per crucem ad lucem. 


The Efficacy of Prayer 

The Father will give you anything you 
ask Him in My name. — Jn. 15, 17 

After we considered the necessity of mortification and 
the cross, both to purify us from all affection for things 
of the world and for ourselves, and also to spiritualize 
our sensibility and supernaturalize our spirit, we then exam- 
ined how the cross purifies our humility, our faith, our 
hope, and our charity. 

This purification is essentially destined to make us know 
and love God better. By means of this knowledge and love 
union with God is realized. In fact, Our Lord, after having 
told us, " If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny 
himself, take up his cross and follow Me," added, " Whoever 
follows Me does not walk in darkness, but will have the 
fight of fife." 

Necessity of Prayer 

This knowledge and this love of God are attained in 
an immediate way in the diverse forms of prayer, especially 
in mental prayer. In order to possess a living faith that 
operates through charity, in order to ignite and increase 
that fire of charity with which we must enflame ourselves, 
communication with God is indispensable. We enter into 
this communication with God through habitual meditation 
on religious truths and by means of mental prayer. 

Indeed, we know only that which we thoroughly 



examine and meditate upon. Since we love only what we 
know, we continue to love only the things that we do not 
cease to think about. Time and distance weaken and 
eventually extinguish the most intense affections. If we never 
think of God, if our spirit remains far from Him, we shall 
no longer love Him. 

What kind of attraction can be offered a believer by 
the beauty of the truths of our faith — such as the Most 
Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, the Redemption, the Eucha- 
rist, the holiness of the Blessed Virgin — if he knows 
these truths only superficially and has never seriously 
meditated on them and savored them in depth? 

Mental Prayer and Mortification 

We should note that mortification prepares for mental 
prayer, and that the latter, in its turn, facilitates mortifica- 
tion. Therefore, prayer and mortification influence one 
another. Mortification and patience prepare for prayer 
through the purification and detachment they produce in 
us. They enable the person to take flight toward God, and 
this flight is prayer itself. 

At the same time, prayer enables us to carry our cross 
in the light. It reminds us of the reason for this cross, 
makes us carry it with love, and obtains from God the 
grace of resignation. Thus, prayer and mortification give each 
other reciprocal help. Prayer is superior, however, just as 
union with God is superior to detachment from the world. 
Indeed, we detach ourselves from the world to unite 
ourselves with God, but we do not seek union with God to 
detach ourselves from the world. 

Efficacy of Prayer 

We must move on, now, to speak of the efficacy of 
prayer and the source of this efficacy. In the first place, we 
ask ourselves: Do we truly believe in the efficacy of prayer? 



This is certainly a question that concerns all people without 
distinction. It touches not only those that are beginning 
and those that have realized great progress, but also those 
in the state of mortal sin because the sinner, even if he 
has lost sanctifying grace and hence can no longer merit, 
can, nevertheless, pray. Merit that has a right to compen- 
sation refers to divine justice; 1 prayer, on the other hand, 
is directed to divine mercy which often hears and lifts up, 
without any merit, the individuals fallen into the state of 
spiritual death. 

From the profound abyss into which he has fallen, the 
most miserable man can send up towards God's mercy that 
cry which is called prayer. The beggar, who possesses only 
his poverty, can pray in the name of his misery and, if he 
places all his heart in this supplication, he compels mercy 
to bow down toward him because the abyss of misery calls 
to the abyss of mercy. The soul rises again, and God is 

We should recall the conversion of Mary Magdalen. 
Also remember the prayer of Daniel for Israel: " Lord! 
We have sinned, we have committed iniquity; departing 
from You we merit all Your punishments. But for the 
glory of Your name, pardon us, O Lord! " (Dan. 3, 28-35) 
The psalms are full of these supplications: " Help us, God 
our savior, . . . blot out our sins, rescue us " (Ps. 79, 9). 
" You, my refuge and shield, I put my hope in your 
word " (Ps. 119, 114). 

Do we believe in the power of prayer? When temptation 
threatens to make us fall, when the light is extinguished 
in us, when the cross is difficult to carry, do we have 
recourse to prayer as Our Lord taught us? Or does it 
happen that we doubt — if not in theory at least in practice 
— the efficacy of prayer? And yet we well know the promise 

1 Merit de condigno is based on justice, merit de congruo is based on 
jure amicabili, that is, on the rights of friendship. 



of Our Lord: " Ask and it will be given to you " (Mt. 
7, 7). We know the common teaching of the theologians. 
True prayer, by which we ask with trusting humility and 
perseverance the graces necessary for our salvation, is 
infallibly efficacious (cf. S. T. II-II, q. 83, a. 15). 

We know this doctrine; and yet, at times, it seems 
to us that we have truly prayed without being heard. We 
believe, or rather, we see the power of a machine, but 
we do not believe enough in the efficacy of prayer. From 
its results we see the power of that intellectual force that 
is science, and there is nothing very mysterious in it. In 
fact, we know where this force comes from, where it is 
directed and what human effects it produces. When we 
are dealing with prayer, however, we believe too weakly in 
its efficacy because we do not know whence it comes and 
we forget where it is directed. We ought to remember, 
then, what the source of the efficacy of prayer is and 
what the end is to which it tends, or rather, which it 
must attain. 

The Source of the Efficacy of Prayer 

The sources of rivers are found at high altitudes. The 
waters from the skies and the melting waters of snow and 
glaciers feed its course. In the beginning, before it fertilizes 
the valleys and goes on to rush into the sea, a river is a 
torrent that descends from the heights. This is a symbol of 
how highly exalted is the source of the efficacy of prayer. 

Sometimes we erroneously believe that prayer is a force 
which has its first principle in us, and that prayer consti- 
tutes a means by which we are able to try to sway the 
will of God. Then our thoughts immediately strike against 
the following difficulty, often enunciated by unbelievers 
(in particular by the deists of the eighteenth and nineteenth 
centuries): no one is able to move the will of God, no 
one can change it. Without doubt God is the goodness 



that asks nothing other than to give itself, the mercy that 
is always ready to come to the aid of him who suffers. 
But God is also the perfectly immutable being, and His 
will is immutable. No one can boast of having illumined 
God, or of having changed His decrees. " I am the Lord 
and I do not change " (Mai. 3, 6). Under the decrees of 
Providence the order of things and events is firmly and 
gently established from all eternity (cf. Num. 23, 19, and 
Jas. 1, 17). 

Yes, all this is true. Yet, one should not, for this reason, 
fall into fatalism and conclude that prayer can do nothing 
and that what is to happen will happen according to fate, 
whether we pray or not. " Ask, and it will be given to you; 
search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be 
opened to you " (Mt. 7, 7). This saying of the Gospel 
stands, and the interior life must search its meaning more 
and more. Thus, prayer is not a force that has its first 
principle in us; it is not an attempt of the human being to 
compel God to change His providential decrees. If some- 
times we speak in this way, it is only by way of metaphor, 
and a human manner of expressing ourselves. In reality, 
the will of God is absolutely immutable. But it is precisely 
in this superior immutability that the source of the infallible 
efficacy of prayer is found. 

Basically, it is the simplest thing. Despite the mystery 
of grace with which it is surrounded, we find here one 
of the most attractive and beautiful chiaroscuros. First of 
all, let us note what is clear. True prayer is infallibly 
efficacious because God, who cannot contradict Himself, 
has so decreed {S.T. II-II, q. 83, a. 2). The contemplation 
of the saints underlines all this. 

The conception of a God who had not willed and 
foreseen from all eternity the prayers that we would direct 
to Him is just as childish as that of a God who would 
change His designs, disposing Himself according to our 
will. All has been foreseen (or at least permitted) from 



the beginning by a providential decree: not only what is 
to occur, but also the manner in which it is to happen 
and the causes that are to produce the events. For the 
material harvest the Lord has prepared the seed, the rain 
to help its germination and the sun to ripen the fruits of 
the earth. The same happens with the spiritual harvest. 
He has prepared the spiritual seed, the divine graces 
necessary for sanctification and salvation. 

In each order, from the lowest to the most sublime, 
God prepares the causes that are to produce His determined 
effects. And prayer is one of these causes, destined to 
produce a particular effect, which is that of obtaining for 
us the gifts of God. All creatures exist solely by reason of 
the gifts of God, but the intellectual creature is the only 
one that can recognize this. Existence, health, physical 
strength, light of the intellect, moral energy, success in our 
undertakings, all these are gifts of God. But above all, grace, 
which leads us to our salvific good, makes us accomplish it 
and gives us the means to persevere, is a gift of God. 

Grace — and even more the Holy Spirit, who has been 
sent to us and is the fountain of living water — is the 
preeminent gift of which Jesus spoke addressing the Samar- 
itan woman: " If you only knew the gift of God, and 
who it is who says to you, ' Give Me to drink, ' you, 
perhaps, would have asked of Him, and He would have 
given you living water, springing up unto life everlasting " 
(Jn. 4, 10-14). The intellectual creature is the only one 
capable of realizing that it can live neither naturally nor 
supernaturally except through the gift of God. Why should 
we be surprised, then, if divine Providence has willed that 
man ask for graces? In this matter, as in all things, God 
wills the final effect first of all; then He disposes the 
means and causes that are to produce it. Having decided 
to give, He decides that we ought to pray in order to 
receive, just as a good father of a family, who has decided 



to give his children some pleasure, wants them to ask him 
for it. 

Note that the gift of God is the result, while prayer is 
the means whereby it is obtained. St. Gregory the Great 
says that men must dispose themselves to receive what 
Almighty God has decided from eternity to give them. 
This is why Jesus, wishing to convert the Samaritan woman, 
disposes her to pray by saying to her: " If you knew the 
gift of God! " And just as He concedes to Magdalen an 
actual grace that is very strong yet very gentle, disposing 
her to repentance and prayer, so He acts in the same way 
with Zaccheus and the good thief. 

Therefore, it is just as necessary to pray to gain the 
help of God which we need in order to do good and to 
persevere in it, as it is to sow in order to have grain. To 
those who say: " Whether we pray or whether we don't 
pray, what is to happen will happen, " we must respond: 
" To speak in such a way is just as senseless as to say, 
' Whether we sow or whether we don't sow with summer 
we shall have grain.' " Providence establishes not only the 
results but also the means we must use. It differs from 
fate inasmuch as it respects human liberty by giving grace 
as gentle as it is efficacious. Hence, an actual grace must 
be received in order to pray; but this is offered to all, and 
only he who voluntarily refuses it remains deprived of it. 2 

2 To every adult, even a great sinner, the efficacious grace to pray is 
offered. Every man receives from time to time the actual grace that renders 
prayer really possible. In this sufficient grace there is offered an efficacious 
help, just as in the blossom there is fruit. But if a man resists this so-called 
sufficient grace, he merits being deprived of efficacious grace which would 
enable him to pray effectively. Here is presented the mystery of resistance 
to grace, an evil deriving solely from our weakness; but the non-resistance, 
which is a good, comes primarily from God, the first source of every 
good. And since the love of God for us is the cause of every good, no one 
would be better than another if he were not loved more by God. * What 
do you have that you have not received? * (I Cor. 4,7; cf. S.T. I, q. 20, 
a. 3 and 4). Our Lord has said, f Without me you can do nothing [in 



Therefore, prayer is necessary to obtain the help of 
God just as the seed is necessary for a harvest. Still there 
is this consideration: the best seed, if lacking favorable 
external conditions, can remain unproductive — and thou- 
sands of seeds are lost in this way — yet humble and 
confident prayer, by which we ask for ourselves what is 
necessary for salvation, is never lost. We know that it is 
already heard by the very fact that it obtains for us the 
grace to continue in prayer. 

This efficacy of properly said prayer is infallibly guar- 
anteed us by Our Lord: " So I say to you: Ask, and it 
will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, 
and the door will be opened to you. For the one who 
asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; 
the one who knocks will always have the door opened to 
him. What father among you would hand his son a stone 
when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of 
a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? 
If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children 
what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father 
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him? " (Lk. 11, 

To His apostles He also said: " I tell you most solemnly, 
anything you ask for from the Father He will grant in 
My name. Until now you have not asked for anything in 
My name. Ask and you will receive, and so your joy 
will be complete " (Jn. 16, 23-24). 

The souls dedicated to prayer, even more than others, 
must live this doctrine which is elementary for every 
Christian. Hence, we must have confidence in the efficacy 

the order of salvation] (Jn. 15, 5). This is all the more reason to pray 
to him to grant us the grace, as he recommends to us. If, then, after 
having sincerely prayed with humility, confidence and perseverance, we 
did not obtain the helps necessary for our salvation, there would be a 
contradiction in God himself and in his promises. These, however, are 
immutable and upon them the infallible efficacy of right prayer is based. 



of prayer! This is not merely a human force that has its 
first principle in us; rather, the source of its efficacy is 
in God and in the infinite merits of the Savior. It descends 
from an eternal decree of love and reascends to divine 

When we pray, it is certainly not a question of per- 
suading God, of moving Him to change His providential 
dispositions; it is only a question of lifting our will to His 
heights, to ivill with Him in time what He has decided to 
give us from eternity. Prayer, far from tending to lower 
the Most High toward us, is rather an " elevation of the 
soul toward God, " as the Fathers say. When we pray 
and are heard, it seems to us that the will of God has 
yielded toward us. It is our will, however, that is raised 
toward Him, in such a manner that we are disposed to 
will in time what God wills for us from eternity. From 
this follows that, far from being opposed to the divine 
directives, prayer cooperates with them. We are, therefore, 
two in willing, instead of one alone. 

And when, for example, we have prayed much to obtain 
a conversion, and have been heard, we can rightly say that 
without doubt it is God who has converted this person, 
but He has deigned to associate me with Himself in this; 
from all eternity He had decided to have me pray to obtain 
this grace. Thus, we cooperate in our salvation by asking 
for the graces necessary to attain it. Among these graces 
there are some, like that of final perseverance, that cannot 
be merited 3 but are obtained by prayer that is humble, 
trusting and persevering. 

Certainly, efficacious grace, which protects us from 
mortal sin and keeps us in the state of grace, cannot be 
merited, for it would be like meriting the very principle 

3 The grace of final perseverance is, in fact, the state of grace that 
continues to death. It is to be noted, however, that the state of grace, 
being the principle of merit, cannot be merited (cf. ST. Ill, q. 114, a. 9). 



of merit (the continual state of grace). But, it can be 
obtained by prayer. Thus, the actual and efficacious grace 
that is instrumental for a living contemplation, though it 
cannot, properly speaking, be merited " de condigno, " 
is obtained by prayer. " And so I prayed, and understanding 
was given me; I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came 
to me " (Wis. 1,1). 

Also, when it is a question of our obtaining a grace 
of conversion for a person who may offer resistance, the 
more numerous we are who pray, each persevering in his 
prayer, the more we can hope to obtain this grace. 

Hence, prayer cooperates powerfully in the plan of 
divine Providence. It can obtain anything whatsoever, on 
condition that we ask God first and foremost to love Him 
more and more: " Your heavenly Father knows you need 
them all. Set your hearts on His kingdom first, and on His 
righteousness, and all these other things will be given you 
as well " (Mt. 6, 33). 

If we do not obtain temporal goods, it means that they 
are not necessary for our salvation. But if our prayer is 
correctly made, we shall obtain in their place an even more 
precious grace for " the Lord is near to all who call upon 
Him, to all who call upon Him in truth " (Ps. 145, 18). 
And the prayer of petition, if it is truly an elevation of the 
soul toward God, disposes us to a more intimate prayer 
of adoration, reparation, thanksgiving, and to the prayer 
of union. 


Mental Prayer 


I am the light of the world; anyone who 
follows Me will not be walking in the 
dark; he will have the light of life. — 
Jn. 8, 12 

Still happier those who hear the word 
of God and keep it.— Ik. 11, 28 

After having considered the efficacy of prayer and its 
foundation, we now examine the essence of mental prayer, 
its various degrees, its object, what its preparation ought 
to be, and what its effects are. 

What is Mental Prayer? 

The Fathers and all the masters of the spiritual life 
say that mental prayer is the elevation of the soul to God. 
Of this elevation it is easier to say what it is not, rather 
than what it is. To know what it is, it must be experienced. 
Indeed, we are not treating here simply of that elevation of 
soul required for all vocal prayers and absolutely necessary 
for all believers in order to be saved. " Mental prayer implies 
a much deeper consideration of the mysteries of faith. It is 
not indispensable for salvation, but surely very useful, and 
more or less indispensable with respect to the grade of 
perfection to which we are called " (Maynard 1-12). 

This mental prayer has always existed in the Church. 
Neither St. Theresa nor St. Ignatius introduced it. However, 
since in that era men no longer applied themselves spon- 
taneously to mental prayer, it was necessary to make it 



obligatory and establish a determined time in the community 
for this purpose. Consequently different methods of mental 
prayer arose. As regards our Order, the duration of mental 
prayer was fixed by the General Chapter of 1515. But 
mental prayer itself had already been the practice for a 
long time. 

The history of our Order recounts that a poor lay 
brother, who had become ill, did not recognize the priory 
of St. James when he returned because, as he said, he no 
longer saw the brethren in mental prayer before the altars. 
St. Thomas passed part of his nights in mental prayer. 
St. Albert composed a treatise on this subject. The life 
of our blessed father St. Dominic was a continuous mental 
prayer, day and night, whether in the priory or on the 

From their foundation, the Carmelite and Cistercian 
Orders were dedicated to mental prayer. And what would 
characterize the interior life that was hidden in the cata- 
combs in those souls ready for martyrdom during the first 
ages of the Church? How would we describe the life of 
Mary Magdalen after her conversion? and the life of 
St. John? of St. Paul and all the apostles? and the life 
of the Blessed Virgin? They were lives of contemplation and 
mental prayer. 

Our Lord, who enjoyed the Beatific Vision, gave us 
an example when He felt the need of separating Himself 
from the apostles to retire into solitude. If He has recom- 
mended public prayer, He has also said: " And when you 
pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their 
prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street 
corners for people to see them. I tell you solemnly, they 
have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your 
private room and, when you have shut your door, pray 
to your Father who is in that secret place, and your 
Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward 
you " (Mt. 6, 5-6). 



Even before the coming of Our Lord, were there not 
individuals that knew interior prayer? Without it, how 
are we to understand the Psalms, the Book of Wisdom, 
the Canticle of Canticles? How can we believe that these 
divine books remained without being understood by all 
the people of the Old Testament? Mental prayer, then, 
implies a much deeper consideration of the mysteries of 
faith than vocal prayer. This consideration differs essentially 
from a simple study of the truth, from a philosophical or 
theological reflection. 

It does not have ordinary knowledge as its end, but 
rather supernatural knowledge and love of the truth. Indeed, 
it is not only a question of an elevation of the intelligence, 
but of the elevation of the whole being toward God. It is 
a flight in which love contributes as much as intelligence. 
Actually love is the very principle and end of mental 

" There are speculative souls, " says Massoulie (cf. May- 
nard), " curious about the things of God, who are not, 
however, souls of mental prayer. If in their considerations 
they experience a pleasure that surpasses all the pleasures 
of the senses, this pleasure often derives solely from know- 
ledge and not from charity. They are moved more by the 
love of knowledge than by the love of God, whom they 
wish to penetrate. Therefore, this pleasure often increases 
their pride and only serves to make them more filled with 

St. Thomas made a distinction in his life between study 
and mental prayer. Although his studies proceeded from 
charity and were supernaturally fruitful, he felt the need 
of interrupting them, abandoning Aristotle and the tracts 
of the Fathers, to go and kneel before the altar and speak 
to God. Often he was taken unawares in tears during his 
prayer. If he had been only a scholar, he would not have 
been able to write the Office of the Most Blessed Sacrament 
as well as his commentaries on Aristotle. He himself, in 



his Summa, has clearly distinguished speculation from 
mental prayer or contemplation. 

Speculation or study does not proceed necessarily from 
charity and does not terminate necessarily in the love of 
God: we can give ourselves to the study of theology 
without having charity. On the other hand, mental prayer 
or contemplation proceeds essentially from charity and 
terminates in an act of love of God. 

It is through love that we seek to contemplate God, and 
the contemplation of the beauty and goodness of God 
increases our love. It is even necessary to say that here 
below contemplation is as a means to the end, in relation 
to love, since here below the love of God is more perfect 
than our knowledge of God. Indeed, love pushes us toward 
God, while knowledge of God draws God, in a certain 
way, into us and reduces Him, so to speak, to our 

The goodness and beauty of God are infinitely superior 
to anything we can imagine. Thus, we can love Him more 
than we can know Him, and until we see Him face to 
face, love is more perfect than knowledge. 

Finally, the purpose of contemplation here below is the 
act of love to which it leads. " Terminus et finis vitae 
contemplativae habetur in affectu " {S.T. II-II, q. 180, a. 7 
ad 1). Mental prayer has for its purpose the stirring up 
of the fire of charity. " In my thoughts, a fire blazed forth " 
(Ps. 39, 4). 

Acts of the three theological virtues and of the gift of 
wisdom. Mental prayer, in order to be the elevation of 
the whole person to God, must proceed from the three 
theological virtues: from faith, insofar as it is knowledge, 
and from hope and charity insofar as they are an act of love. 
But in mental prayer, or at least at the end of mental 
prayer, knowledge and love ought to blend in a certain 
way into a single act. They should merge into a loving 


knowledge of God, into a look of love directed toward 
our Father who is in heaven, toward His infinite perfec- 
tions, toward Our Lord. This look of love in us proceeds 
from the most perfect of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, from 
the spirit of love that dwells in us, and from the gift of 

The Holy Spirit has us utter inexpressible moans and 
makes us cry out: " Abba, Father! " — the only word 
that children know to say to him who has given them life, 
who protects, instructs, and loves them. He allows us to 
consider something of divine truth (of the Most Holy 
Trinity, of the Incarnation, of the Redemption) by means 
of a taste, a touch, an intimate experience accompanied by 
the most absolute certainty. He reveals to us the hidden 
sense of the Gospel: " Taste and see that the Lord is 
sweet " (Ps. 34, 9). 

Under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, the will loves, 
with all its strength, the divine object which faith reveals 
to it. The intelligence judges experimentally something of 
the goodness of this object by means of the influence which 
the latter exercises on the will, which in turn, conforming 
itself to the object, becomes rectified. Even here below the 
dogmas of the Incarnation and Redemption fulfill and surpass 
our most legitimate and highest aspirations. By means of 
the dogmas, it is really God who makes Himself felt in 
us in the obscurity of our faith and is with us as a friend 
with a friend, no longer in purely speculative and abstract 
truths (as in a tract of theology), but as a living Person 
and source of life. 

" Still happier those who hear the word of God and 
keep it! " says Our Lord to the poor woman who exlaims: 
" Happy the womb that bore You and the breasts You 
sucked! " (Lk. 11, 28). If the Virgin is happy, it is not 
because she formed the body of the Savior but because 
she, in a certain way, first conceived Him in her spirit 



by means of prayer, and because she was united to Him 
by the most intimate knowledge and most ardent love. 

This mental prayer, this gaze of love, is the repose of 
the person in God, a repose that presupposes the hard 
work of mortification and crowns it. As St. Cyril of Alex- 
andria said, " It is the respite of the soul immersed in 
the beauty of God through contemplation, experiencing 
His love by means of charity. " 

The Various Degrees 

In mental prayer we have as many degrees as there are 
in the gift of wisdom, which increases with the growth of 
charity. Some simple persons without instruction, and the 
Christian virgins in particular, often have the gift of wisdom 
in a much more exalted way than theologians. 

We can distinguish three degrees. In the first degree of 
mental prayer are found those who have begun the spiritual 
life and feel a repugnance for evil and attraction for good. 
In the second are those who are making progress through 
renunciation and mortification. In the third are those who 
are perfectly emptied of themselves, whose purified virtues 
reach heroism. 

" Generally, the perfect are called to a contemplation 
that is neither acquired nor maintained except by the assid- 
uous exercise of meditation and in consequence of a passive 
contemplation that does not depend on human activity but 
only on divine goodness, which of itself works in us " 
(Maynard 11-10). St. Theresa (Way of Perfection, chap. 19) 
distinguishes these two contemplations by comparing the 
passive prayer to a fountain of spring water and the active 
prayer to water that has already run for some time on the 
ground and has lost its clearness, mixing itself with the 
mud that is carried along. In fact, in passive prayer the 
fountain of spring water is the Holy Spirit, who offers 
Himself immediately to us, works in us and separates us 



from the world with the knowledge He gives us. On the 
other hand, in active contemplation, which is the fruit of 
our meditation, there is the imperfection of our human 
acts mixed like mud in the water of grace and divine truth. 
Thus, when we rouse ourselves to a contempt of the world, 
this consideration, since it still remains human, fastens our 
thoughts on objects which basically still please us (St. 
Theresa, ibid.). 

Nothing like this remains in passive prayer. God snatches 
us from the world, draws us to Himself and, in an instant, 
gives us a vision of all things here below that is much clearer 
than we could acquire by many years of assiduous meditation 
(St. Theresa, ibid.; cf. also Catherine of Siena, Dial. chap. 
100). In reality, in this state the mastery of the gifts of the 
Holy Spirit over the virtues and over the human way of 
acting is realized: it represents the adult stage of the spiritual 

But in this living spring water there are so many 
different levels! (Maynard, II, pp. 192-256). They vary 
from that of a soul who attains passive prayer for himself 
alone, to those souls overflowing with divine life, as a St. 
Dominic, who attain it for a whole religious order, and 
finally to that unique soul, the Holy Virgin, who sustains 
all of us by her prayer. 

These eminent degrees of the gift of wisdom and of 
loving knowledge are entirely independent of any visions, 
supernatural words or revelations, which do not presuppose 
the state of grace as being necessary and which are not 
themselves necessary to the full development of charity, 
but are given, rather, as with the grace of miracles, to 
cooperate in the sanctification and salvation of other souls. 

The Object 

What is the object of mental prayer? In the first place, 
it is obviously the One and Triune God and all that revela- 



tion makes known of His nature and infinite perfections. 
Then, in a particular way, it is Our Lord Jesus Christ, who 
is the indispensable way for all to be lifted up to God, 
even for those who are already much advanced in the 
spiritual life. Further, it is His Passion and Death on the 
Cross, contemplated in the light of the divine attributes of 
justice and mercy which illumine Our Lord's sacrifice. We 
especially cite the spectacle of the Cross, which nourishes 
charity, since this is the greatest proof of love that God has 
given us: " God loved the world so much that He gave 
His only Son " (Jn. 3, 16). Since no one goes to the Father 
except through the Son, without Our Lord one may have 
a philosophic, abstract knowledge but not that supernatural, 
experimental, affective knowledge which is the heart of 
mental prayer. 

A secondary object of mental prayer is creatures, insofar 
as they manifest God to us. Among all the creatures we refer 
to those in which the image of God appears more clearly: 
the souls of the saints and the Mystical Body of Christ. 

Another object of mental prayer is our life, which ought 
to be guided by the will of God to produce in us the image 
of our divine model, Jesus Christ. He is the image, the 
splendor of the Father and the manifestation of His nature 
(cf. Heb. 1, 3). 

We have examined mental prayer, its principle, end, 
degrees, and object. Now we will consider its practice. 

How to Go about Mental Prayer 

Venerable Louis of Granada says that many believe that 
mental prayer is like any art; hence, to be perfect, it is 
enough to learn its method and apply it mechanically. Their 
illusion derives from the fact that certain modern authors, 
after setting down a method of mental prayer, lead us to 
believe that these rules, if observed conscientiously, can 
take the place of divine grace. This, however, is a very 



naturalistic concept of mental prayer. Without doubt the 
methods of mental prayer are useful and often necessary, 
especially for beginners; but mental prayer depends essen- 
tially on the grace of God and the action of the Holy 
Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit's word that we hear in ourselves 
and which we prepare ourselves to receive primarily by 
practicing humility and conforming to the will of God. 

Others fall into the opposite excess. They disregard all 
methods and all preparation and then they complain that, 
when they wish to recollect themselves and put themselves 
in the presence of God, they find nothing except emptiness 
and darkness. 

Remote preparation. Mental prayer presupposes a remote 
preparation and a proximate preparation. Remote prepara- 
tion is none other than mortification of our passions and 
the detachment from the world and from ourselves through 
humility. It is clear that if our spirit is preoccupied with 
pleasures and affairs of the world, if our soul is agitated by 
passions, by affections that are too human, or by jealousy, 
we are not disposed to mental prayer. If we are habitually 
preoccupied with ourselves, if we ignore humility, how can 
we let ourselves be penetrated by God and hear His voice? 
Without mortification and humility the methods of mental 
prayer are worthless. 

The best remote preparation is the diligent practice of 
the three vows — which detach the soul from pleasures, 
from the things of the world and from self — together with 
patience in bearing the crosses that mortify us. If you are 
faithful today in avoiding venial sin, gossip and vain 
conversations, tomorrow God will also be faithful and will 
let you hear His word in mental prayer. 

Proximate preparation. Proximate preparation must dis- 
pose the intelligence and will. It is necessary to dispose our 
intellect with the selection of a determined subject. " He 
who wishes for too much, attains nothing." Unless our 



attention is fixed on something precise, we run the risk of 
not thinking of anything. 

It would be preferable to choose a subject from the life 
of Our Lord since He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. 
He is the expression and beauty of God which has been 
given us. He is our model for as long as we are wayfarers 
on this earth. In Him is epitomized the sum total of faith, 
dogma, and morals. St. Theresa counsels us to meditate on 
the life of Jesus according to the cycle of the liturgical year, 
uniting our prayer to that of the universal Church and 
that of Our Lord, who does not cease interceding for 
His Church. Let us not meditate on the joy of the Epiphany 
on Good Friday! Finally, when we consider the life of 
Our Lord we should take time to meditate preferably on 
the virtues that are opposed to our predominant fault, 
those we put in practice less than the others. Above all 
we should learn from Him to be meek and humble of 
heart, precisely as He Himself has taught us. 

Once the subject has been chosen, it is necessary to 
prepare our will by prayer. For mental prayer it is not enough, 
as we have said, to speculate; it is also necessary to love, 
to make our will conform to the divine will. Only prayer 
can obtain for us this grace of conformity, thus placing us 
in the presence of God. 

After having prayed, we must meditate on the chosen 
subject. Whether it is a virtue of Our Lord or a fact from 
His life, we must follow in our meditation the order indicated 
to us in the Our Father. This means that we think first of 
God and then of ourselves. We contemplate the glory of 
God in the virtues of the divine Master, the kingdom of 
God they procure, and the fulfillment of the will of God. 

We might pause a moment in our mental prayer at the 
climactic point of the Our Father to let our intelligence give 
to the will the time to love, to savor God in Our Lord, 
to take joy in His glory. We should listen to Him if He 
wishes to speak to us — if we have merited that He speak 



to us. We should remain thus as long as our love is 
awake, and then, let us descend to ask for our daily bread 
and the strength to put into practice the example that we 
have meditated on, as well as the strength to resist temp- 
tation. We should pardon others and ask pardon for the 
past. Then, we ought to make a resolution for the future, 
not a vague one, however, that would remain inefficacious, 
but a precise one, based on the meditated subject as it 
relates to our life. 

If meditation according to this manner, though very 
simple, is nonetheless not possible to us, if we are not 
able to repulse distractions or recollect ourselves sufficiently 
to meditate, or if we find only aridity and desolation, we 
should undertake prayer of the heart. This consists simply 
in willing to remain in the presence of God in order to love 
Him more than ourselves, in abandoning ourselves to the 
divine will, in being happy in our nothingness and 
acknowledging that God is infinitely above all that we can 
possibly imagine. 

This affective mental prayer is one of the most fruitful 
if the soul is humble and generous. It is distinguished from 
lazy inertia by the vigilance of love — this remains the 
essential act of mental prayer. In a certain sense, this prayer 
is easier than the other forms because not all souls are 
capable of remaining in profound reasoning, but almost all 
can easily produce affective movements while meditating on 
the Our Father and the manner in which they put it into 
practice in their lives. Every Christian is capable of reentering 
thus into himself if he mortifies and denies himself. 

The Effects 

Now we shall speak of the effects of mental prayer. The 
impetratory effect of prayer is, as we know, to obtain infal- 
libly the grace necessary to salvation when we ask for it 
with humility, trust and perseverance. If God did not listen 



to this true prayer He would be contradicting Himself, for 
He commands us to save ourselves, admonishes us that 
grace is indispensable to be saved, and tells us to pray to 
obtain this grace. Hence, if He did not listen to true prayer, 
which He Himself inspires and commands, He would no 
longer be God. 

Mental prayer, however, does not have only an impetra- 
tory effect. It develops in us all the virtues, and especially 
the three virtues which together with humility are the 
heart of the Christian life: faith, hope, and charity. We 
should give ourselves courageously, then, to mental prayer 
so that our faith may not be simply that superficial and 
verbal knowledge that stops at formulas, but rather that 
which penetrates the intimate sense of the divine word. 
We should give ourselves to mental prayer so that we may 
learn to hope in God alone, instead of trusting in ourselves 
and counting on others. We ought to give ourselves to 
mental prayer so that we may love God with the love He 
wants, with the love He showed us on the Cross and 
continues to show us in the Eucharist. 

We should give ourselves to mental prayer so that we 
may extend our love for God to all the souls loved by God, 
to those who make us suffer as well as those who please us. 
We should pray for all souls — that will be an apostolate 
more fruitful than a sermon without love. We ought to 
pray, like St. Catherine of Siena, in the name of Our Lord 
and of all the souls that make up His Mystical Body. Like 
her, we should take up in our soul all these souls and place 
them in the heart of God. We ought, like her, to make 
catholic acts, that is, universal acts of contrition, of faith, 
hope, and charity. In this way our mental prayer will lose 
itself in the prayer of Christ Himself, always living; and He 
will carry us to God on the wings of the Spirit of Love. 



in Mental Prayer 

If you only knew what God is offering . . . 
you would have been the one to ask, 
and He would have given you living 
water. — Jn. 4, 10 

If any man is thirsty, let him come to 
Me! Let the man come and drink who 
believes in Me! As scripture says: From 
his breast shall flow fountains of living 
water.— Jn. 7, 37-38 

We have said that mental prayer is the elevation of the 
whole being to God. In it knowledge and love must be 
merged into a gaze of love that is none other than the 
contemplation of God and of Our Savior and model, Jesus 
Christ. We have also considered how we ought to prepare 
ourselves for mental prayer and how, if it is impossible to 
apply ourselves to that which is properly called meditation, 
we ought to replace it with prayer of the heart. 

Necessity of This Perseverance 

Now we must speak of perseverance in mental prayer. 
St. Theresa tells us in fact that in mental prayer perseverance 
is the trait most necessary (Interior Castle, II Mansion, 
chap. I). With it we cannot help but gain much; without 
it we can lose all. We must engage in battle against 
ourselves, against our spiritual sloth and against the devil 



who wants to throw us into discouragement. How many 
souls, deprived of the sweetness they tasted at the 
beginning, have turned back after having put their hand 
to the plow! What is more, some souls that were very 
advanced have fallen backwards. 

St. Catherine of Genoa, who from the age of thirteen 
had given herself to mental prayer and had made great 
progress, became discouraged after five years of suffering. 
She abandoned the interior life and for five years led the 
life of a worldly woman. But one day she observed with 
anguish the frightful emptiness of her soul and felt the 
desire that a holy life be reborn in her. Without warning, 
God had called her to Himself, striking her as He did St. 
Paul on the way to Damascus. After fourteen years of 
terrible penance that is almost beyond description, she 
received the certainty of having fully satisfied divine justice. 
She used to say: " If I were to turn back, I would wish 
that my eyes be plucked out, and I would find that this 
would still not suffice " (Hello, Physiognomy of the Saints). 

Other souls that have fought the battle a long time, 
become discouraged when they are at last only a few steps 
from the fountain of living water, and they fall back again. 
Without mental prayer they no longer have the strength to 
bear their cross, and therefore they return to an easy and 
superficial fife. Others could be saved in this lax existence 
but these souls run the great risk of being lost because 
their faculties, which are extremely powerful, will push 
them to excesses. Excess was permitted and demanded of 
them when it was a question of the love of God, but every 
other excess will drag them into the abyss. Souls made for 
great things carry within themselves a grave risk. Since 
a mediocre life is not possible for them, they take sides 
without any half-measures — with God or against God. 

Thus it is that the angels can know only ardent charity 
or irremissible mortal sin — venial sin is impossible for them. 
They see perfectly and bind themselves totally in all their 



acts. Angels or devils, the holiest or the worst, these are 
the only alternatives for pure spirits. It is, therefore, a 
great danger for a soul that has once given itself to mental 
prayer not to persevere in it, or to participate in it only in 
a material way and without any drive of love. The abandon- 
ment of the life of mental prayer can be the beginning of 
its ruin. 

To persevere in mental prayer it is necessary, first, to 
trust in the Lord, who calls all souls to the fountain of 
living water and hence offers them the grace to overcome 
their obstacles. Secondly, we must allow ourselves to be 
led humbly through the way He has chosen for us, 
conforming our will fully to His. 

To Trust 

First of all we musi trust in the Lord. To fall backwards 
in the face of difficulties, such as distraction or aridity, 
and thus become discouraged means both to lack in the 
virtue of hope recommended to us by the Lord and also 
to doubt in the goodness and power of God. Some souls, 
to excuse their discouragement, their laziness and their 
cowardice, will say: " One must not fall into presumption. 
Mental prayer was made only for some souls, not for me. 
God is not calling me to that height; it would be presumption 
to pretend that He is." Thus, with the pretext of avoiding 
presumption we are lacking in hope and put the responsibility 
for our spiritual inertia on God. 

To combat discouragement and to stir up hope within 
ourselves, we should seek to understand thoroughly this 
truth that is insufficiently stressed: God calls all souls to 
the fountain of living water of mental prayer after a period 
of time, more or less long and after trials that can be more 
or less painful. When I speak of living water, I do not mean 
visions or revelations. I am speaking of that affective gaze 
of love that enables the soul to quench its thirst at the very 



fountain of life which is the Holy Spirit present in us. I 
am referring to that elevated degree of the gift of wisdom 
through which God works in us without our human activity, 
to make Himself felt by us. The word of God that is tasted 
through the diligent effort of meditation and through our 
own human activity, is, on the other hand, like water mixed 
with mud. 

The greater number of past authors on spirituality, 
especially those of the Dominican School basing themselves 
on the authority of St. Thomas, maintain that all souls are 
called to this living water. (Maynard II, N. 75; Arintero, 
Mystical Evolution, pp. 447-510). They are called to the 
fountain of mental prayer, if not to pour it out over a 
great number of souls as did the saints, then at least to the 
extent required to attain what is necessary for the perfection 
of their own personal charity. To establish this truth we 
must bring out the testimony of Sacred Scripture, especially 
the words of Our Lord, and find the precise meaning in 
the light of sound theological conclusions. 

The testimony of Sacred Scripture is very clear. Already 
in the Old Testament the Book of Wisdom invites all souls 
without distinction: " Look forward, therefore, to my words; 
yearn for them, and they will instruct you. Wisdom is bright, 
and does not grow dim. By those who love her she is readily 
seen, and found by those who look for her. Quick to 
anticipate those who desire her, she makes herself known to 
them. Watch for her early and you will have no trouble .... 
I reckoned no priceless stone to be her peer, for compared 
with her, all gold is a pinch of sand, and beside her silver 
ranks as mud .... In her company all good things came to 
me! " (Wis. 6, 11-14; 7, 9-11). The same invitation is 
found in Psalm 34: " Taste and see how sweet the Lord 
is, " and in Proverbs (8, 17 and 35): " I love those 
who love me; those who seek me eagerly shall find me . . . 
for the man who finds me finds life, he will win favor from 



Yahweh." In Isaiah it is predicted that " Your sons will 
all be taught by Yahweh. The prosperity of your sons will 
be great " (Isa. 54, 13). 

Our Lord explains these words of the Old Testament. 
He compares Himself to the good shepherd (Jn. 10, 1) who 
leads his sheep to pasture, calling each one by name. They 
follow him because they hear his voice and recognize it. 
In the same way Our Lord leads our souls to the eternal 
pastures, that we may be nourished not only by bread, but 
by the word of God, by the mystery of the kingdom of 
heaven. At the center of these eternal pastures is found 
the fountain of living water about which Jesus spoke to the 
sinful Samaritan woman in spite of her mistakes. " If you 
only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying 
to you: Give Me a drink, you would have been the one to 
ask, and He would have given you living water " (Jn. 4, 10). 

At Jerusalem on one of the great feast days, Jesus stood 
at the foot of the temple and cried out to all, not just to 
some privileged ones: " If any man is thirsty, let him come 
to Me! Let the man come and drink who believes in Me! 
As scripture says (Isa. 58, 11): From his breast shall flow 
fountains of living water " (Jn. 7, 37-38). 

This fountain of living water (fons vivus) — as Our 
Lord will later explain — is the Holy Spirit, the Counselor 
whom He sends, who teaches all things and enables us 
to penetrate the intimate sense of the Gospel. This Holy 
Spirit, the principle of the seven gifts, dwells in us through 
charity, as St. Paul says. Consequently, the Holy Spirit is 
found in every soul that is in the state of grace. Certainly it 
is not in order to remain inactive that the Spirit dwells there. 
It is not to be silent that the Divine Counselor lives in us. 
On the contrary, the Holy Spirit does not cease to speak 
to souls, as the author of the Imitation (III, chap. 3) says, 
but many are deaf to His voice because they are listening 
to the voice of the world or to themselves. The Holy Spirit 
is in the soul and operates there in proportion to the growth 



of charity. And He says, not only to privileged souls but 
to all: " Love the Lord your God with your whole heart, 
and with your whole soul, and with your whole mind, and 
with your whole strength " (cf. Deut. 6, 5; Mk. 12, 30). 
Do not set limits for your love! 

Evidently, then, according to the testimony of the Lord, 
all souls are called to nourish themselves in the eternal 
pastures, to quench their thirst at the fountain of the living 
water of mental prayer and to be interiorly instructed by 
the Spirit of God. It is our fault if there are " many called 
and few chosen. " The fault lies in our lack of humility and 
love. If we were more humble and more devoutly intent 
on having the kingdom of God in us, then wisdom, which 
hides itself from the prudent and the wise, would be revealed 
to us and no one could accuse us of presumption. 

Theology makes the teachings in Sacred Scripture still 
more precise (cf. S.T. HI, q. 68, a. 1 and 2). St. Thomas 
explains that with regard to heaven, our supernatural end, 
the moral virtues are not sufficient; nor are the theological 
virtues of faith, hope, and charity. They are insufficient 
because they still operate in a human mode, submitting 
themselves to the manner of acting of our human faculties, 
which is restricted and limited like the human being himself. 1 
So it is that faith reveals God to us in a manner that is too 
abstract, too obscure, and in formulas that are too narrow. 
So it is that the initiatives of hope and charity, as long as 
they are tempered by prudence — even though it is Christian 
prudence — do not go beyond a certain measure, a happy 
medium that still remains human. 

This mixture of the divine and the human in the super- 
natural virtues leaves us in a state of inferiority. Hence, 

1 Through the theological and moral virtues man is not perfected 
in the order related to his ultimate end in such a way that he no longer 
needs to be moved by a certain superiot inspiration of the Holy Spirit 
(S.T. m, q. 68, a. 2 ad 2). 



through them we are not sufficiently equipped to attain our 
supernatural end. We must, in fact, attain it not only by 
supernatural acts, but by supernatural acts performed super- 
naturally — by an impetus that can come only from God. 
St. Thomas says that by the virtues alone we find ourselves 
before our supernatural end like beginners left to themselves. 
The beginner, who still does not know his trade well, knows 
what is to be done but does not know how to do it as it 
should be done. For this reason it is necessary that the master 
who is training him take hold of his hand and himself guide 
the work so that it may be presentable. 

Thus our mental prayer remains too human to truly taste 
the word of God. As long as it remains only the fruit of 
diligent meditation, we, as St. Theresa says, drink only a 
water mixed with mud that runs along the ground; this is 
the human mode of our activity (Way of Perfection, chap. 
19). To drink at the fountain of living water, it is necessary 
that the Holy Spirit directly intervene, take possession of our 
intelligence and will and communicate to them His divine 
manner of thinking and loving. " With our mouth He utters 
inexpressible sounds. " Only this divine manner of acting is 
worthy of God, who must be known not as an abstract 
truth but as a living truth. He must be infinitely loved. 

As long as we remain here below, we will always be 
beginners. Therefore, if we wish our mental prayer and our 
works to be perfect it is necessary that the Holy Spirit 
intervene habitually. And consequently it is necessary to 
admit, besides the virtues, the permanent action of the gifts 
of the Holy Spirit which make us docile to His action, to 
His inspirations, and to His direction. The first of these 
gifts is that of wisdom. 

With only the ordinary exercise of the gifts of the 
Holy Spirit we can attain even now the adult stage of the 
supernatural life and become good disciples of the Holy 
Spirit, habitually docile to the voice of the Master, always 
ready to hear His voice. St. Paul says: " Everyone moved 



by the Spirit is a son of God .... And if we are children 
we are heirs as well " (Rom. 8, 14 and 17). In the Psalms 
it is written: " May your good Spirit guide me on the right 
way in the land of the saints " (Ps. 143, 10). This means, 
St. Thomas concludes, that no one can obtain this celestial 
inheritance unless he is moved and led by the Holy Spirit. 

If we observe that the gift of wisdom increases with 
charity and that charity increases with humility, denial of 
self, and conformity to the will of God, then we must 
necessarily conclude that, since all men are called to grow 
in charity, they are consequently called to grow in wisdom 
to the extent of surpassing their human manner of thinking. 
This is exactly what Our Lord calls " drinking at the fountain 
of living water. " For this reason, after having said, " If 
anyone wants to be a follower of Mine, let him renounce 
himself and take up his cross and follow Me " (Mt. 16, 24), 
He adds, " Anyone who follows Me will not be walking in 
the dark; he will have the light of life " (Jn. 8, 12). 

Therefore, all men are called to this light of life after 
the necessary purifications, which can be more or less painful, 
more or less lengthy, according to their imperfections and 
according to the degree of divine life to which God predes- 
tines them. He submits to longer trials those He wishes to 
bring to a greater height, but He calls all, after the necessary 
purifications, to taste His word of life. 

The dogma of Purgatory, also, confirms this conclusion 
when it teaches us that there are certain purifications 
absolutely indispensable for all souls before they can enter 
heaven. Hence, if one does not undergo these purifications 
with merit in this life, he necessarily undergoes them in the 
next, but without merit or progress in charity. Consequently, 
there is no presumption in desiring this living water of mental 
prayer, just as there is none in desiring daily Communion, 
although the Jansenists said the contrary. Our Lord does 
not cease to call the little ones and to thank His Father for 
having revealed to them what He hides from the prudent 



and the wise. If we truly desire it, the sense of the divine 
certainly will be given us. 

It would be presumption, however, to desire the living 
water immediately, without going through the intermediate 
stages, without the will to become more detached from the 
world and from self, without the will to become more 
humble, without the will to pledge oneself totally to confor- 
mity with God's will. It would be the kind of presumption 
one might commit in receiving Holy Communion daily 
without desiring to correct oneself. That would be falling 
into what St. John of the Cross calls " spiritual greed": 
seeking spiritual consolations for themselves and not for 
God. It is not the consolation which we should seek and 
love, but God, who gives the consolation to those who 
truly love Him for Himself. 

It would be presumption to desire the more exalted 
degrees God reserves for the saints, who, like St. Dominic, 
are predestined to exercise a great influence on His Mystical 
Body. Like the publican of the Gospel (Lk. 18, 13) and all 
the saints, we ought to stand in the last place, conform our 
will in all things to that of God, desire His kingdom and 
think of Him. Then, it will be He who thinks of us and 
makes us grow continually to the degree to which He has 
decided to lead us. 

It would be presumption to desire and to ask for visions 
and revelations rather than the living water, that is, the 
light of life and the intimate sense of the words of our 
divine Master. Visions and revelations are extraordinary 
favors which do not necessarily suppose the state of grace 
and are not at all needed for a superior development of 
charity. Like miracles, they have a utility that is rather 
external (that is, for one's neighbor) and if they are not 
accompanied by a profound humility, they can also become 
dangerous, not in themselves, but incidentally. The danger 
arises inasmuch as they may make their recipients become 
complacent with themselves and may lead them to illusions 



(cf. Arintero). But to ask for the meaning of the divine is 
not a presumption. On the contrary, it is necessary to desire 
it with ardor. " Ask and it shall be given you, seek and you 
shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you." 

We should conclude then, that we must never become 
discouraged before difficulties that we meet in mental prayer, 
be they distractions or aridity. Our Lord, who calls us to 
the goal, also offers us the graces necessary to triumph over 
these obstacles. We must, however, look to see whether 
these difficulties come from our lukewarmness or are a trial 
sent by the Lord to purify us. " They come from our 
lukewarmness," says St. John of the Cross, " if, not having 
a taste for the things of God, we instead have a taste for 
the things of the world; and if we do not have a true desire 
of serving God and making progress in perfection. On the 
contrary, if we are detached from the world and truly 
desirous of serving God in a perfect way, these difficulties 
are a trial willed by God." 

If the obstacles come from our lukewarmness, it is a sign 
that the deficiency lies in our remote preparation for mental 
prayer. In that case we must give ourselves generously to 
a more perfect practice of mortification, of humility, and of 
the three vows. If it is a question of a trial, however, we 
must wait patiently and with loving resignation. If meditation 
is impossible for us, we should undertake the prayer of 
conformity to the will of God which consists in willing to 
remain in that state, to serve Him and to acknowledge 
that He is infinitely above all that we could possibly meditate. 
We should not lose courage. That hour is not lost because, 
despite the impotence of our thought, love was awakened and 
this is what is essential. 

To Allow Oneself to Be Led 

We must also allow ourselves to be led through the way 
that the Lord has chosen for us. To attain the living waters 



it is not enough to hope in Our Lord; we must also allow 
ourselves to be led with docility through the way He has 
outlined for us. There is a great way, common to all souls 
without exception: humility and conformity to the will 
of God. All ought to pray like the publican and hold them- 
selves in the last place. It has been said for all that God 
exalts the humble and humbles the proud; the mysteries of 
God, hidden from the wise and the prudent, are revealed to 
the little ones. 

This is the only way that leads to the living waters. 
Yet, along this way there are some rocky places where it 
is difficult to walk, while in other places it is smoother and 
covered with new grass; one part of the road is scorched 
by the sun, while the other part is shady. 

The Good Shepherd leads His sheep as He thinks best. 
He leaves some souls in the difficult passes for a long time 
to make them stronger because He has the intention of lead- 
ing them to a greater height. St. Theresa remained fourteen 
years unable to meditate except by reading; even this was 
wearisome for her. During his apostolic voyages, Blessed 
Diego of Cadiz, although he exerted a profound influence on 
souls, did not find anything except dryness, confusion, and 
filial fear in his daily three hours of mental prayer; only very 
rarely did he feel and taste the sweetness of the divine 
charity which burned in him. 

If Our Lord raises the Marys instead of the Marthas to 
contemplation, He also reserves for them, in the midst of 
their contemplation, some crosses that are much more painful. 
Without suffering as much, the Marthas, too, attain the 
living waters; even if they do not attain them with as much 
abundance, nonetheless, they quench their thirst and are 
satiated in proportion to their desire. 

There are some individuals that arrive at contemplation 
very late, says St. Theresa, and sometimes they can pray 
only vocally. Yet, a truly humble person ought to be content 
with the road along which Our Lord leads it; it then enjoys 



divine wisdom and the light of life, even if not always fully 
conscious of it. 

We cannot better condense this doctrine, nor better 
penetrate it and convince ourselves that it is truly the tradi- 
tional doctrine of the whole Church than by reading The 
Imitation of Christ (III, chap. 3), on the necessity of 
listening to the word of God with humility, and by reading 
the following prayer to implore the grace of devotion: 
" Speak, O Lord, because your servant listens. You alone have 
the words of eternal life; make them descend like dew so 
that my soul may not become like earth without water. " 


Docility to the Holy Spirit 

The Lord Yabweh has opened my ear. 
For my part, I made no resistance, neither 
did I turn away. — Isa. 50, 5 

We have said that, if we persevere in mental prayer, we 
shall finally hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, who gives us 
the sense of divine things and prompts us on to works 
of salvation. At this point, we will consider docility to the 
Holy Spirit and the means that can enable us to distinguish 

The Movement of the Spirit 

Docility to the Holy Spirit is necessary for the salvation 
of every Christian soul: " Everyone moved by the Spirit is 
a son of God " (Rom 8, 14), and " Your good Spirit will 
guide me on level ground " (Ps. 143, 10). Without the 
movement and direction of the Holy Spirit we cannot arrive 
at this goal; the supernatural virtues, even if guided by 
Christian prudence, are insufficient. This prudence, however 
supernatural it may be, still retains a human mode that is 
too timid to walk befittingly in the ways of Our Lord. 
We must hasten toward divine things in a divine manner, 
not in a human way. Only the Holy Spirit, by His movement 
and immediate direction can give us this divine impetus. 
Since we are beginners, the Holy Spirit must take possession 
of our intelligence and our will in order that we may 
accomplish the divine works in a divine manner. 



Our Lord said to us: "I shall ask the Father, and He 
will give you another Advocate to be with you forever, that 
Spirit of truth whom the world can never receive since it 
neither sees nor knows Him; but you know Him, because 
He is with you, He is in you. I will not leave you orphans " 
(Jn. 14, 16-18). 

The divine Spirit, whom the Apostles received at Pentecost 
and whom all Christians receive through confirmation, is the 
soul of the Church, the soul of the Mystical Body of which 
Christ is the head. The head cannot communicate an influx 
to the members by way of the nerves if it and the members 
are not animated by the same spirit. There is only one soul 
for the whole body; it is whole in the entire body and whole 
in every part, though it is more eminently in the head since 
it is there that it exercises its most elevated operations. 

The same occurs in the Mystical Body. The head is the 
soul of Christ, the members are the souls in the state of 
grace, and the vital influx is constituted by the actual 
graces, the inspirations and attractions that move us to 
accomplish the good. The one soul of this whole spiritual 
body is the Holy Spirit, and, just as our will directs our 
head and by means of it the other members of our body, 
so the Holy Spirit moves the soul of Christ and by means 
of it our souls. 

During sleep our head and members live their respective 
lives without the intervention of our will; but when we 
are awake the matter is quite different. Thus it is that, as 
long as our supernatural life is still drowsy and unconscious, 
we act in a human mode, according to our human way of 
being. But when it becomes more conscious, more active, 
and we feel a kind of divine impetus, it is the Holy Spirit, 
the Spirit of Christ, moving us by means of His gifts. 

Some authors say that the action of the gifts of the 
Holy Spirit is reserved solely to the practice of heroic 
virtues, and that in the practice of the ordinary virtues 


these gifts remain inactive. Instead, many others, especially 
among the Thomists, think that even though the influence 
of these gifts is predominant in the heroic virtues, it 
extends, nevertheless, to an infinite number of practical 
cases in daily Christian life. They cite, for example, when 
there is need for a greater readiness to tame the passions 
and to resist the temptations of the devil and the world, 
especially, when the infirmity and weakness of the subject 
requires a more complete and efficacious help, a principle 
of action more elevated than the ordinary virtue. 

All persons, therefore, ought to show themselves docile 
to the action of the Holy Spirit within them; all those in 
the state of grace have the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and 
these gifts are not in them to remain inactive. We must be 
docile to the Holy Spirit by practicing all the virtues. He is 
our master for contemplation and action, in all the events 
and circumstances of our life. Faith, hope and charity are 
rendered more active, particularly through the gifts of under- 
standing, knowledge, and wisdom. Prudence is animated by 
the gift of counsel; justice and religion by the gift of piety; 
fortitude by the gift of the same name; and temperance by 
the gift of fear of the Lord. The gift of fear of the Lord 
helps in the fight against the attraction of prohibited plea- 
sures and inspires the mortifications of a St. Louis Bertrand 
and a St. Rose of Lima, and the preaching of a St. Vincent 

The gift of fortitude reanimates our courage in time of 
danger, sustaining St. Peter Martyr in his office and John 
of Gorcum in his torment; giving strength to St. Catherine 
de' Ricci when she was commanded to spit on her vision, 
and enabling her to bear heroically the prejudices of the 
community against her. 

The gift of piety makes us better able to understand 
and practice our religious duties and it inspires us with an 
affection for God that is wholly filial. This gift is revealed 



to us especially in the life of a St. Agnes of Montepulciano 
or a St. Pius V. 

The gift of counsel directs us in the particularly difficult 
circumstances of fife and surpasses our prudence. It was in 
this gift that St. Antoninus, Archbishop of Florence, excelled. 

The gift of knowledge enables us to judge correctly 
human things when they are opposed to the divine; it shows 
us their vanity. It makes us feel, above all, the infinite 
gravity of sin as an offense to God and a damage to the 
soul. It is this gift of knowledge which made St. Dominic 
cry when he exclaimed during his prayers: 0 Lord, Lord, 
why are there sinners? " The profound thought of moral 
miseries caused the saint a deep sadness that often made 
him weep in the pulpit. 

The gift of understanding enables us to comprehend the 
truths of faith and grasp their meaning hidden under the 
letter; it penetrates beyond appearances and makes the 
hidden thought burst out. It is the gift of understanding 
that illumines the words of Sacred Scripture in the Dia- 
logues and Letters of St. Catherine of Siena. 

Finally, the gift of wisdom infuses us with such a sense 
of God and divine things that it enables us to judge all 
things in relation to their first cause and their ultimate end. 
It was the gift of wisdom that presided at the composition 
of that wonderful synthesis, the Summa of St. Thomas. 
In it all, absolutely all, is subordinated to the idea of God, 
the point of meeting for every judgment regarding man, 
human liberty, and social life. Whatever subject St. Thomas 
treats, fundamentally it is always of God that he speaks 
because he connects everything to its first cause and its 
ultimate reason for existence. And it was the gift of wisdom 
that also nourished his mental prayer and dictated to him 
the office of the feast of Corpus Christi. 

These seven gifts, these seven divine inspirations, are 
present in us — even if not in the same measure as they are 



found in the great saints — and it is the same supernatural 
quality of light and love that should inspire our life. Hence, 
we should be docile to this inspiration, to that voice of 
the Spirit, in mental prayer, in work, in the common life, 
and in the midst of difficulties that we meet. 

That Voice 

To be docile to the voice of the Holy Spirit we must 
(1) be able to hear it and (2) learn to distinguish it from 
all others that could draw us into error. To be able to hear 
it, it is necessary that we be recollected, detached from the 
world, and practice mortification of our heart, of our will, 
and of our judgment. If there is no silence in our soul and 
the voice of the world and the passions agitate it, we cannot 
hear the interior word of our Master. If we habitually take 
pleasure in our own way of seeing things and do not wish 
to receive counseling from anyone, we shall hear, above 
all else, ourselves, or else a perfidious and dangerous voice 
that seeks the way of our heart. 

To hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, then, it is necessary 
that we obtain silence within ourselves by interior mortifi- 
cation and detachment. Even dien this voice of the Spirit 
remains mysterious, as Our Lord said to Nicodemus: " The 
wind blows wherever it pleases; you hear its sound, but 
you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. 
That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit " 
(Jn. 3, 8). 1 In fact, this voice begins as an inspiration, as 

1 Hello, in regard to St. Catherine of Genoa, says: " In the life of 
the saints, and especially in the life of the contemplative saints, there is a 
succession of incomprehensible steps: they hesitate, they vacillate, they 
move ahead, they turn back, they change their paths. One has the impression 
that they are wasting time. It seems that the mysterious ways through 
which they are led never finish. God teaches them humility and makes 
them understand their impotence and nothingness " (Hello, Physiognomy of 
the Saints, p. 310). 



an obscure light; but if one perseveres in humility and 
conformity to the will of God, it clearly shows its divine 
origin to the conscience and, though it remains mysterious, 
it becomes the shining night that Sacred Scripture speaks 
of: " And night is my illumination in my delights " 
(Ps. 139, 12). 

To avoid all illusions we must learn to distinguish the 
Spirit of God from two other spirits or inspirations which 
at the beginning seem right, but lead to death. St. John 
says: " It is not every spirit, my dear people, that you can 
trust; test them " (I Jn. 4, 1). Besides the Spirit of God, 
there is also the spirit of the devil, who sometimes transforms 
himself into an angel of light. There is also the purely 
natural spirit that proceeds from our fallen human nature, 
which, with its drives and enthusiasms, is a source of 

As a rule, it is one of these three spirits that dominates 
in a soul: in perverse souls it is the spirit of the devil, in 
lukewarm souls the natural spirit. In those that have begun 
to give themselves to the interior life, however, the Spirit 
of God habitually dominates, although there is still much 
interference from the natural spirit and the spirit of evil. 
Even in perfect souls God permits certain imperfections — 
sometimes more apparent than real — to maintain them in 
humility and give them the occasion to practice the opposite 

It is, therefore, important both to distinguish well which 
is the spirit that prompts us to act, and also to understand 
in what things we are " of God, " as St. John says, and in 
what things we are " of ourselves." To distinguish which 
spirit is making us act, we must discern the results of its 
influence and then compare them with what the Gospel 
teaches us about the Christian virtues. Does such an influence 
diminish or increase these virtues in us? "A tree is to be 
judged by its fruits." This is not always easy, because the 
devil has it in his interest to hide himself. The saints see 



the world filled with devils, and we are continually exposed 
to their influence. 

The natural spirit (Imit. Ill, chap 54) is an enemy of 
mortification. It seeks its own pleasure even in the super- 
natural life, and thus falls into spiritual greed (St. John of 
the Cross). It stops before the first difficulties it meets on 
the road of virtue, complains of the cross, and becomes 
irritated. It is indifferent toward the glory of God, toward 
his kingdom, and toward the salvation of souls. The spirit 
of the devil moves us first to exalt ourselves in pride in 
order that it may then throw us into uneasiness and 
discouragement. To recognize its influence it is enough to 
observe it in relation to mortification, humility and the 
three theological virtues. 

It does not necessarily separate us from exterior morti- 
fications. Instead, it sometimes even moves us to an exterior 
mortification that is exaggerated and obviously visible, thus 
sustaining our spiritual pride and destroying our health. 
But it does not move us at all toward the interior mortification 
of our own will and judgment. On the contrary, it makes us 
have a great esteem for ourselves, makes us prefer ourselves 
to others and makes us boast of receiving divine favors. 
(Arintero adds that it makes us prefer our own Order to 
other Orders because we are playing a part in it). 

This spiritual pride is accompanied by a false humility 
that makes us speak ill of ourselves to hinder others from 
doing so and to make them believe in our humility. Instead 
of nourishing our faith by making us meditate on what is 
simple in the Gospel, it draws our attention to what is the 
most extraordinary and often completely extraneous to our 
vocation. Its scheme for rousing our hope is that of raising 
within us the presumption of wishing to be perfect saints 
immediately, without passing through the indispensable stages 
of detachment. Instead of stirring up our charity, it cultivates 
self-love in us; instead of bringing us to love our neighbor, 
it brings us to judge him severely, to be scandalized by his 



faults and to condemn him. It imitates the zeal of charity 
by inspiring us with a discontented zeal that always wishes to 
reprove others and to correct them, instead of correcting 

All this, instead of generating peace, gives birth to 
division and hatred. We dare no longer to talk together 
because we could not stand being contradicted; we no longer 
see anything but ourselves and we adore ourselves on the 
pedestal on which we have placed ourselves. 

If we commit an offense that is too obvious to hide, we 
fall into anxiety, discouragement and blindness, and the 
devil, who prior to the sin hindered us from seeing the 
danger, now exaggerates the difficulties in returning to God. 
After having lifted us up to a proud height, Satan throws us 
down into spiritual desolation, modeling us to his image just 
as Our Lord wishes to model us to His. 

Therefore, let us be alert! If we feel a great devotion, 
and yet come from our prayers with a greater amount of 
self-love, if we have something contrary to our superiors and 
are not simple in dealing with our spiritual director, then 
the spirit of evil is in us. 

The signs of the Spirit of God, however, are absolutely 
the opposite. This spirit, also, leads us to exterior mortifi- 
cation, yet, in this sense differs from the natural spirit: it 
promotes an exterior mortification regulated by discretion 
and obedience which does not tend to make us attract notice 
or ruin our health. This Spirit of God makes us realize that 
exterior mortification amounts to very little without a 
corresponding mortification of the heart, the will, and the 
judgment— and in this it differs from the spirit of the devil. 
It inspires in us a true humility which prohibits us from 
preferring ourselves to others, does not fear contempt, and 
keeps silent about its divine favors (which, however, it does 
not negate or deny, but for which it gives all glory to God). 

It nurtures our faith with what is simple and sublime 
in the Gospel, in conformity with our vocation; it induces 



us to meditate on the Gospel, aiding us with the traditional 
interpretation of the Fathers, without having recourse to 
hazardous and superficial novelties destined to be soon for- 
gotten. It makes us readily submit to the Supreme Pontiff, 
to the bishops, our superiors, and our spiritual director. It 
increases in us the spirit of faith, which makes us see Our 
Lord in all our legitimate superiors. 

It revives our hope without leading us into presumption. 
It awakens in us a desire for the living waters of mental 
prayer while keeping us conscious of the fact that this is 
to be had by passing through successive stages, and that 
the way along which we must travel is that of humility and 
the cross. 

It increases the fervor of our charity; it infuses zeal for 
the glory of God and a complete forgetfulness of ourselves. 
It makes us desire that the name of God be hallowed, that 
His kingdom come, that His will be done; and it helps us 
forget ourselves, leaving the care of ourselves to God, while 
we think of Him before all else. It gives us love of neighbor, 
hinders us from making rash judgments about him and of 
being scandalized by his mistakes. It rouses in us a zeal for 
the salvation of souls; a zeal, however, that has no bitterness 
but instead is mild, full of meekness, profoundly humble, 
discrete, patient, submissive in obedience; a zeal that edifies, 
above all, by example and prayer and not with inopportune 
warnings. And this Spirit strengthens our patience in time 
of trials. 

Finally, through all these means the Spirit of God gives 
us joy and interior peace, peace with ourselves and with 
others. While the spirit of the devil builds us up to an 
immense pride so that we may then be thrown down into 
despair, the Spirit of God, if we fall, speaks to us of the 
mercy of our Father instead of exaggerating the difficulties 
of repentance. 

All these signs are described by the Apostle St. Paul 
(Gal. 5, 22-23). In general, they can be reduced to two: 



simple humility and docility to one's superior and spiritual 
director. " But we are children of God, and those who 
know God listen to us; those who are not of God refuse 
to listen to us. This is how we can tell the spirit of truth 
from the spirit of falsehood " (I Jn. 4, 6). 

If it is no longer a question of the general inspiration of 
our life, but of a particular act, we must take into account 
what St. Ignatius and St. John of the Cross say: " It is a 
sign that it is God who visits the soul when no natural 
cause has brought us to the profound consolation by which 
the soul feels itself unexpectedly pervaded." (The devil can 
give only superficial joy since he cannot act directly on the 
intelligence and the will, but only on the imagination and 
sensibility). We must distinguish with much care, however, 
the first moment from those which follow, even though the 
soul may still feel the ardor and the heavenly favors it has 
received. In the period of time that follows it often happens 
that — whether by habit or by our personal way of judging 
and seeing, or by the inspiration of good or bad inclination — 
we conceive certain thoughts and form some projects that 
do not come directly from God. They ought to be first 
examined with care before they obtain our assent and are 
put into execution. Hence the necessity again of having 
recourse to our spiritual director. This made St. Theresa 
say that the more a soul progresses the more need it has for 
an enlightened director to distinguish the inspirations of 
the Holy Spirit that lead it. 

To Follow the Voice of the Spirit 

When we have recognized the voice of the Holy Spirit, 
and our superiors and directors have said that we must go 
forward, we ought no longer to have any hesitation. " The 
Lord Yahweh has opened my ear. For my part, I made no 
resistance " (Isa. 50, 5). In this way the saints went ahead, 
despite their trials and the judgments of the world. They 



knew that God was with them. Thus Abraham, the father 
of believers, left his country on the order of God, to go to 
an unknown country in which, humanly speaking, he could 
not hope for any hospitality. 

Thus St. Paul, on taking leave of the faithful at Miletus 
said to them: " And now you see me a prisoner already in 
spirit; I am on my way to Jerusalem, but have no idea what 
will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit, in 
town after town, has made it clear enough that imprisonment 
and persecution await me. But life to me is not a thing to 
waste words on, provided that when I finish my race I have 
carried out the mission the Lord Jesus gave me — and that 
was to bear witness to the Good News of God's grace " 
(Acts 20, 22-24). 

Thus when Father Michaelis undertook reform in our 
Order, he proceeded very slowly at the beginning and took 
all precautions to be certain of what God willed. When he 
knew God's will, no obstacle placed in his way by a human 
will could stop him. This man was not guided by his own 
spirit, but by the Spirit of God. Consequently, we should 
also conduct ourselves in the same way to reform our personal 
lives. We should follow the voice of the Holy Spirit as 
soon as we recognize it. Indeed, every day we say in the 
Invitatory of Matins: " Today, if you hear His voice, do 
not harden your hearts." 

We ought to walk in the way of humility, faith, hope, 
and charity in which the Holy Spirit would like to see us 
run and fly. We should invoke Him with an ardent prayer: 
" Send forth your Spirit and they will be created, and you 
will renew the face of the earth " (Ps. 104, 30). Then, 
under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, we will walk like 
the artist, who, following his own genius, does not think 
of the rules of art, but observes them only because he 
possesses their spirit. We will practice all the virtues, even 
those that are seemingly most opposed: humility and the 



burning desire of perfection, firmness and meekness, wisdom 
that sees all in God and prudence that is preoccupied with 
details. In this way we will have the Spirit of Life. 

We should often repeat this sublime prayer of the 
Church: " Come, Holy Spirit, and from on high send forth 
the ray of Your light." 


Zeal for the Glory of God 
and the Salvation of Souls 

I have come to bring fire on the earth, 
and how I wish it were blazing already! — 
Lk. 12, 49 

We have seen that love of neighbor is none other than 
the extension of love of God. Hence, it is a question of 
one and the same love that is supernatural, theological and 
essentially divine. In the soul of a religious this love is to 
become so intense and so ardent as to merit the name of 
zeal. For a soul consecrated to God it is a duty, an 
indispensable obligation, to nourish in itself zeal for the 
glory of God and the salvation of souls. Always it is a 
question, fundamentally, of the same zeal, of the flame 
of the one and same love. 

The Motive 

We ought to make this zeal increase in us (1) because 
religious profession imposes the obligation of imitating Our 
Lord, and (2) because we belong to an Order founded 
essentially for the salvation of souls. 

(1) We ought to nourish this zeal if we wish to imitate 
Our Lord. The dominant virtue of the Sacred Heart is 
evidently charity, but it is an intense and ardent charity 
that is likewise a zeal for the glory of God and the salva- 



tion of souls. " I have come to bring fire on the earth, and 
how I wish it were blazing already! " 

Our Lord was able to call His zeal for God His food. 
" My food is to do the will of the One who sent Me " 
(Jn. 4, 34), to glorify the Father, to bring it about that 
His Name be sanctified, that His kingdom come, that His 
will be done. And this will of the Father is precisely the 
sanctification of souls that are called to know Him, to love 
Him above everything and to glorify Him in receiving 
from Him eternal beatitude. 

Our Lord was, as it were, devoured by this twofold zeal 
for God and for souls during His entire life — particularly 
on the Cross — and He still is in the Eucharist. During His 
life He manifested the Name of God to men, revealed God 
as a Father of all peoples without distinction of class or 
nation; He revealed God to us as a fight which, coming 
into this world, illumines every man and takes pleasure 
especially in illuminating the small and the humble; He 
revealed God to us as love and mercy, ever looking over 
us to heal us. He proclaimed the rights of God as the 
foundation of all justice, and in the first place God's right of 
being known, loved and glorified. 

He declared that the gravest of all evils was the insult 
made to His Father who is infinitely good. This insult, 
whose infinite gravity in its total extension into the past 
and future He penetrated and felt, was the great suffering 
of His life. If sons instinctively suffer because of an offense 
made to their father, how much did Our Lord have to 
suffer — especially when He saw that this offense came 
from us whom He wished to save! 

He willed to offer Himself as a victim in our place to 
make reparation and obtain for us pardon. On the Cross 
He took upon Himself the iniquities of all enemies, His 
Own and His Father's; He suffered for all our sins as if 
He had been guilty — He who was devoured by a burning 
thirst for the glory of God. And this indescribable suffering 



He offered to His Father for us, making to God a reparation 
as great as God Himself. This insult could not cease to 
exist until men separated from God had been led back to 
Him for their salvation and His glory; for this reason, on 
the Cross He had a thirst for our souls, even to the point 
of dying for them. 

When St. Catherine of Siena asked Him, " My Lord, 
what was your greatest pain, that of the body or that 
of desire? " Jesus replied to her with infinite tenderness: 
" My child, there can be no comparison between something 
finite and something infinite. Consider that the pain of 
My body was limited, while My desire for the salvation 
of souls was infinite. This burning thirst, this cross of desire, 
I felt all My life. It was more painful for Me than all 
the pains that I bore in My body. Nevertheless, My soul was 
moved with joy seeing the final moment approach, especially 
at the supper of Holy Thursday when I said, ' I have 
desired ardently to eat this Pasch with you, ' that is, 
sacrifice My body to My Father. I had a great joy, a great 
consolation, because I saw the time arrive when this cross 
of desire would cease for Me; and the closer I felt Myself 
to the flagellation and the other torments of My body, 
the more I felt the pain in Me diminish. The pain of the 
body made that of desire disappear, because I saw completed 
what I had desired. With death on the Cross the pain of 
the holy desire ended, but not the desire and the hunger 
I have for your salvation. If this love that I have for you 
were extinguished, you would no longer exist, since it is 
only this love that maintains you in life." 

In the Eucharist there is the same zeal for God and 
for mankind. On the altar and in the tabernacle, Jesus 
is the most excellent Adorer of the Majesty of His Father. 
Thus, even in the smallest village God is adored without 
an instant of interruption. Night and day, when the faithful 
are working or resting, there is One who does not cease 
in rendering to God a cult worthy of Him, because Our 



Lord, always living, does not cease to intercede for us 
and to offer Himself as victim to make reparation for our 
offenses. In this same Sacrament of love, the Sacred Heart 
expresses to us its thirst for our souls. Every day He 
offers Himself to us as food, to sanctify us more and more 
and to assimilate us to Himself. 

" My delights are among the sons of men " (Prov. 8, 31). 
He asks us for our love as if He had need of us, whereas 
it is we who can do nothing without Him. He becomes the 
support and consolation of thousands of fervent souls, from 
the missionary who exposes himself to death that he might 
spread the Gospel, to the humble Christian woman who, 
obliged to live in the world and sometimes in very perverse 
surroundings, comes to seek every morning in Holy Com- 
munion the strength to defend herself from the temptations 
that surround her. ~~ 

Our religious profession enjoins us to imitate this ardent 
zeal of Our Lord. St. Catherine of Siena said: " I should 
like to see you suffer so much from hunger for the salva- 
tion of souls that you would be able to die for them as 
Christ Jesus or, at least, that you might die perfectly to 
the world and to yourselves." 

(2) We ought to nourish this zeal also because we belong 
to an Order founded essentially for the salvation of men. 
We should recall the example of our father, St. Dominic: 
his incessant prayer, his nocturnal flagellations and his 
continual preaching in the midst of the greatest difficulties 
provoked by the heretics. 

This ardent zeal made him say to his enemies, from 
whom he had unwittingly escaped: " If you had captured 
me, I would have begged you not to kill me with one blow, 
but to cut off my members one by one, and after putting 
the mutilated pieces before me, to finish by snatching out 
my eyes and leaving me immersed in my blood." The whole 
heart of St. Dominic is in this heroic cry, which reminds 



us of the ardor of the great martyr,. St. Ignatius of Antioch, 
who desired to be chewed and devoured by the wild beasts 
for the glory of Jesus Christ. We should recall the zeal 
of St. Catherine of Siena for some persons who generally 
did not thank her except with insult 

The Extension 

We must direct this zeal in a particular way to the 
salvation of those in our homeland. In increasing numbers 
these people are separated from God and Christ. Without 
faith, hope and charity they have no other concern than 
pleasures of the world and their fortunes. They drink 
iniquity like water with almost no awareness, and they 
run with indifference toward damnation. An immense mul- 
titude of poor, misled people amuse themselves on the 
brink of an abyss that at any moment can swallow them 
up for eternity. Meanwhile, some extremely perverse 
individuals, with a perversity worse than merely human, 
furiously persist with all means to deprive the little ones 
of the light of life and the bread of life. 

We should often think about this militant Church that 
is our mother. The war that is waged against her is hateful, 
terrible in its consequences, entirely different from every 
other war, without anything human about it. A war of 
the spirit, loaded with heavy responsibilities, profound, 
terrible and hateful like the sins of the spirit, a war that 
is waged in the inner recesses of the heart between Our 
Lord and the devil. And therein is found the whole history 
of the world. 

The Church sees the eternal consequences for those 
who wage this war against her, yet she continues to love 
them as sons and to pray that God will cure them of their 
blindness and stop them on the road to eternal damnation 
where their fury drives them. Upon us, fellow religious, 



devolves the task of making reparation by loving our Mother, 
the Church, with all our spirit, with the most complete 
submission, with all our heart, with all our soul, and with 
all our strength. 

Our zeal must extend likewise to the Church in purgatory. 
This Church is for us truly our neighbor. We ought to 
assist the suffering members of Christ and give them relief 
because we all belong to the same body. These souls, who 
are our brothers and sisters, find themselves in indescribable 
torments, suffering both the pain of loss and of the senses. 

St. Catherine de' Ricci suffered this pain of the senses 
for a soul for whom she offered herself. A mysterious flame 
was lighted in her body. From her head to her feet were 
formed blisters filled with boiling water and when these 
were absorbed the body of the saint seemed parched with 
fire. She remained in her cell which became like an oven, 
painfully enduring the heat. This torment lasted forty days 
when it suddenly ended. 

But the souls of purgatory suffer above all else the 
pain of the loss of, or rather the privation of, God. Here 
below this privation does not make us suffer because this 
is our condition. For the souls in purgatory it is different 
because they should already be seeing God. They have 
arrived at the end of their voyage, are separated from the 
world, are deprived of their consolations, diversions and 
every means of being able to merit. All that is in them urges 
them toward a God whom they should, but do not, possess. 
They find themselves, as it were, suspended between two 
worlds. Their life goes on, no longer to merit, but to 
suffer. They are completely immersed in suffering, and they 
think of nothing else. St Augustine and St. Thomas both 
affirm that the smallest of their pains is greater than 
all those that can be experienced in this world. Yet, 
all these souls are holy, temples of the Holy Spirit, members 
of Christ, incapable of sin in the sufferings they bear for 
love of divine justice. 



These souls wait for our help, our alms. They no longer 
can merit, but we can merit for them. They no longer can 
gain indulgences, while we, with a bit of good will and the 
spirit of faith, can gain indulgences for them by drawing 
from the infinite treasury of the Church, thus hastening their 
liberation. These are the motives of our zeal, which should 
be extended to all souls. 

How Is This Zeal to Be Exercised? 

This zeal is to be exercised according to the example of 
Our Lord, of St. Dominic, and of St. Catherine of Siena. 
This means, by prayer, by penance, and by the spiritual and 
corporal works of mercy which our rule imposes on us. 
Today many works of all types are undertaken, but often 
the very soul of these works is forgotten: prayer and 
penance. Our Lady of Lourdes, in the ninteenth century, a 
century so proud of its attainments, found nothing more 
necessary to say than: " Pray and do penance." 

Prayer is the true and most powerful instrument of 
action being the first condition and the soul of the apostolic 
life. Works without prayer are sterile, because it is grace 
that acts on souls and grace is attained by prayer: " Ask 
and you will receive." The apostolate of prayer must con- 
stantly support that of word and of action. The humble 
lay sister kneeling at the foot of the Crucifix can obtain 
much more by her prayer than a preacher of great talent 
who does not pray. Talent by itself does nothing but make 
a bit of noise. " It is only a tinkling cymbal," as St. Paul 
says (I Cor. 13, 1), while prayer, even alone, without skill 
and talent, accomplishes wonders and is capable of moving 

It was revealed to St. Theresa that, by her prayer at 
the foot of the Crucifix, she had converted as many souls 
as St. Francis Xavier, the Apostle of India, who traveled 
through the whole world carrying the word of God. We 



should remember that the prayer which St. Stephen, the 
first martyr, spoke as he ascended into heaven, offered on 
behalf of those stoning him, drew down grace on the soul 
of St. Paul who was guarding the cloaks of those fanatics. 

We ought to recall the force of the prayer of St. Peter 
Martyr when, no longer able to preach, breathing his last 
and bathed in his own blood, he ardently prayed for his 
executioner. The prayer of St. Peter Martyr converted that 
brutal soul, which up to that time had known only the 
vilest and most violent passions, into the soul of a saint. 
So intense was the light that illuminated the spirit of that 
wretched man, so penetrating was the contrition that over- 
turned his heart, that he bitterly wept over his crime, asked 
for the Dominican habit and spent forty years in the practice 
of the most heroic virtues and most rigorous penance. He 
edified his confreres and the entire city to such a point 
that they all called him " the blessed one." He died a saint 
and his remains were venerated. This is the force of prayer 
for the salvation of souls! Let us pray, then, that the 
preaching of our confreres bears good fruit. 

That charming, gracious Carmelite, St. Therese of the 
Child Jesus, hidden in her monastery, by her prayers made 
the apostolate of two missionaries of India fruitful by 
preparing souls to receive their word and keep it. 

We should also pray for the souls in purgatory, of whom 
we spoke earlier. It would be so easy to seek to gain for 
them the plenary indulgences on the feast days of our 
saints and all the other indulgences that the Church in 
her solicitude deigns to concede for the benefit of these 
poor souls. The question here is not of accomplishing 
" the heroic act " of applying all our meritorious acts to 
the total benefit of these souls. If we wish to despoil 
ourselves in this way, we should think it over thoroughly 
and seek counsel, and take into account what we are giving 
and what we are renouncing, and what a terrible increase 
of pain may be its inevitable consequence. We must be 



assured that this act of generosity does not have its origin 
in an enthusiastic imagination, but rather in charity and 
the inspiration of God. Hence, it is not fitting to make 
such a renunciation without the consent of our spiritual 

Some prefer to let Our Lord dispose of their acts of 
satisfaction and their merits without first determining how 
He should dispose of them. Without coming to this point, 
there are so many merits and sacrifices we can offer every 
day to hasten the liberation of these souls! In any case, 
prayer is always fruitful. Holy persons cannot render it 
sterile, as can sinners, who can always refuse to be converted. 

In addition to prayer, the zeal of St. Dominic added 
penance for those who do no penance and mortification 
for those who do not mortify themselves. The perfect, in 
imitation of Christ, are to redeem souls with their 
blood. As St. Theresa writes: " The religious who comes 
into the convent solely to expiate her sins — I don't under- 
stand what on earth she is doing! " 

In sanctifying ourselves we are to sanctify our brethren 
too. A great means of sanctification, together with prayer, 
is the cross. When we crucify our body, Our Lord can 
spare some poor sick body — sick, perhaps through its own 
fault and with little strength left — or the body of a 
poor man who needs his health to earn bread for his 
children. When we immolate our heart to God, Our Lord 
can cure a sick heart that lacks strength to break its chains. 
When we immolate our will to God, Our Lord raises up a 
dead will. These are the two great means of exercising our 
zeal for the salvation of others: prayer and penance. 

To these, however, we must add the spiritual and 
corporal works of mercy as well as those imposed by our 
rule: Christian instruction and education, education given 
by example and word. We have the splendid mission of 
forming the Christian spirit, of forming hearts and wills 
to the love of God and neighbor and — why not say it? — of 



forming and generating Jesus Christ in the souls of chil- 
dren, who were loved so much by Our Lord. Thus, later, 
they may shine in the world like the small " city built on 
the mountain " of which Our Lord speaks (Mt. 5, 14). 

The importance of this mission becomes greater in the 
age we are going through today, when almost " all truth 
has vanished from among the sons of man " (Ps. 12, 2) — the 
truths of God, the excess of His love, His indefeasible 
rights and the rigor of His justice, the truths regarding 
the great duties toward father and mother, toward country, 
toward the poor of Christ. 

We have the mission of molding these children to 
self-denial, to humility, to the spirit of faith and charity. 
We have the mission of revealing to them the cult of the 
Sacred Heart and of the Blessed Virgin, the mission of 
teaching them that the rich man must consider himself 
solely an administrator of the goods of God and must help 
those who are dying of hunger, instead of aggravating them 
with his egoism, his luxury and his insatiable need of 
enjoyment. This is the sublime mission, blessed by God, 
if we consider that the child is like a spring and as we make 
the spring, so will be the stream, that is, the family. Where 
will this which we begin reach? Only God knows. This 
zeal must always be accompanied by prudence and tempered 
by humility and meekness, but without ceasing to be ardent. 

Lord, give us this zeal, the dominant virtue of your 
Sacred Heart, the virtue of our blessed father St. Dominic. 
Teach us to pray ardently for souls that are lost, teach us 
to carry the cross for them because You have conceded 
us immense graces they have not received. Make our suffer- 
ings, supported in union with You, diminish the blindness 
of sinners and move their heart. Lord, give us this thirst 
for souls even to the point of dying for them, as you died 
for them; or, certainly, to the point of truly dying to 
ourselves to live eternally in You with these souls! 


Devotion to the Blessed Virgin 

Son, behold thy Mother. — Jn. 19, 27 

We cannot preach a retreat to religious, and above all 
to contemplative religious, without dedicating a discourse 
to the great devotion we ought to have toward the Mother 
of God. Therefore, I should like to speak of the Virgin 
Mary, our Mother and our Mediatrix, being inspired above 
all by the doctrine of a saint whom we know very well, 
St. Louis Grignon de Montfort, author of the book True 
Devotion to Mary. 

This profitable work was found under a layer of dust 
only after the French Revolution. Since then, the book 
has been translated into all the major languages. I believe 
that this is the book that has contributed most in spreading 
the doctrine of the universal mediation of the Blessed 
Virgin. This doctrine had existed previously. Father Olier 
recalled it and taught it to his first sons, and they in 
turn, trained St. Louis Grignon. It was the latter who 
received infused contemplation of the mystery of the Blessed 
Virgin, and when he wrote on this subject he could 
continue at great length because he spoke from the abundance 
of his heart. This small tract is a treasure for the Church, 
as is indeed its summary, entitled " The Secret of Mary," 
which the Saint made for a sister religious. 

He says first of all that he is concerned with devotion 
to Mary and seeks to demonstrate its principal levels and 
the heights to which it should reach. He begins with the 
observation that the Protestants wished to deny the 



mediation of Mary, while the Jansenists wanted to diminish 
it. He comments on some Catholics who had allowed 
themselves to be influenced: " Also among the Catholics 
there are some who know the Virgin Mary only in a 
speculative way. They fear that in their devotion to the 
Holy Virgin they may be trespassing, that they may be 
injuring their devotion to Our Lord." They seem to believe 
that Mary is an obstacle to attaining divine union, whereas 
in reality she exercises all her influence to lead us to the 
most intimate union with her Son. 

When we approach the Virgin, we are indeed approach- 
ing a person in whom Our Lord was pleased and in 
whom the Holy Trinity dwells and reigns most profoundly. 
To approach her, means to approach her Son and her 
heavenly Father. We will analyze the question, then, by 
dividing the subject into the following three points: why 
wc should have great devotion to Mary; how we should 
practice it; and what are its fruits. 

Why We Should Have a Great Devotion to the Holy Virgin 

Theology tells us that for Mary we ought to have not 
only a cult of dulia such as is owed to the saints, but a cult 
of hyperdulia. Hyperdulia, in fact, comes immediately after 
the cult of latria which is reserved for God, and for the 
divine humanity of Our Savior inasmuch as it is united to 
the Person of the Word and is the sensible instrument of 
His immense love. 

But why should we render a cult of hyperdulia to Mary? 
If she were only " full of grace " and not also the Mother 
of God, would there have to be a cult of hyperdulia for 
her? The greater part of the theologians respond negatively 
and the Congregation of Rites is fully in agreement with 
them on this point. Therefore, it is only because she is the 
Mother of God that she is owed this cult, and not because 
she is full of grace. If she were full of grace without being 



the Mother of God we would not render her a special 
cult. Such worship is owed her by reason of her divine 
maternity. This latter is of an order that not only surpasses 
the natural order, but even the order of grace and glory 
because it has recourse to the hypostatic order constituted 
by the very mystery of the Incarnation. 

Mary is the Mother of Jesus who is God, and for this 
reason her motherhood terminates in the very Person of 
the Incarnate Word and reaches to the very boundaries of 
Divinity. Mary is the Mother of Jesus who is God. Certainly, 
she did not give Him His divine nature, but only His 
human nature. She is Mother, however, not precisely by 
reason of the humanity of Jesus, but by reason of the 
Incarnate Word because motherhood terminates not in a 
nature, but in the person possessing this nature: in this 
case in the very Person of the Word. 

The Most Holy Virgin, since she conceived Him corpo- 
really and spiritually, is His Mother in two ways: (1) cor- 
poreally, since He is flesh of her flesh, and the torch of His 
human life was kindled in the womb of the Virgin by the 
work of the Holy Spirit; and (2) spiritually, inasmuch as 
the formal consent of the Virgin was necessary so that the 
Word might be united in her to our nature and the mystery 
of the Incarnation be fulfilled in this way. From all eternity 
God had decreed to concede to Mary a grace that would 
let her say her " fiat " to the Incarnation. And she said 
it with greatest humility, with faith and courage because 
from the book of Isaiah she had learned what the sufferings 
of Our Lord would be. 

This dignity of the Mother of God, being of the hypo- 
static order, surpasses that of all the saints together. Now it 
is precisely in view of this motherhood that Mary has 
received all the privileges that were conceded to her. God 
has bestowed all these privileges on her that she might 
be the worthy Mother of Our Lord. She had been predestined, 
in the first place, to the divine Motherhood and in view of 



this Motherhood, to a very high degree of grace and 
glory — so much so that the initial grace she received at the 
instant of her Immaculate Conception already surpassed the 
final grace of all the saints together. This follows since, as 
the Fathers say, God loved the Holy Virgin as His future 
Mother already at the instant of her conception. This love 
for her, greater than that which He had for all creatures 
and for all the angels together, produced in her a propor- 
tionate grace. If, therefore, the Virgin alone was loved 
more than all the hierarchies of the angels, then she had 
received from the first instant an initial fullness of grace 
and charity that surpasses the final grace of all the saints. 

To understand this better, we can make use of some 
analogies. A most beautiful diamond is worth much more 
than many ordinary gems. It is said that the founder of 
an Order, in view of the Order he is to found and for 
which he has received a special inspiration, is worth more 
than all his companions combined. It is said also that 
St. Thomas by himself is worth more than all his commen- 
tators together, because he received a grace of illumination 
that permitted him to see better than others the questions 
he solved. He saw them from a point of view that was 
higher and in a way more universal; so his authority prevails. 
Consequently, we need not be surprised if Pius XI said 
that " the initial fullness of grace in Mary already surpasses 
the sum total of grace of all the saints together before their 
entrance into glory." 

In the moment in which she received this fullness, Mary 
was preserved from original sin because it was necessary 
that the perfect Redeemer Jesus Christ exercise a sovereign 
redemption, at least with regard to the one soul that would 
be most intimately associated with Him in the work of 
redemption. If a doctor were to succeed not only in helping 
someone recover from a mortal wound, but in preventing 
its occurrence, it could be said that he is a savior in the 
natural order. In this sense is Our Lord the Savior of His 



Mother. The Holy Virgin was preserved from original sin 
because of the merits of her Son, and for the purpose of 
becoming His worthy Mother. From that instant, grace, with 
charity and the virtues, increased in her soul in magnificent 
crescendo until her death. 

Just as bodies fall faster the closer they come to earth, 
so souls in the state of grace ought to advance faster toward 
God the closer they come to Him and are drawn by Him. 
This is realized in the saints toward the end of their lives. 
But this marvelous law of acceleration is realized above all 
in the Holy Virgin because in her there was no longer 
anything that could slow down the movement of her ascent 
toward God: neither original sin, nor any personal sin, 
nor any imperfection of the will. Consequently, in her there 
was a marvelous progress, an acceleration more and more 
pronounced. Here below, the Virgin by herself had greater 
power than all the saints together, so much more that the 
saints can do nothing without her help; she is truly the 
universal Mediatrix. 

The reason why we owe this cult to Mary derives, there- 
fore, from the fact that she is the Mother of God, and to 
be such she received the fullness of grace and all privileges. 
She will always remain, in heaven just as on earth, the 
worthy Mother of Our Lord, and Our Lord in heaven 
will honor her as His Mother. 

Mary is our Mother and universal Mediatrix. She is 
our Mother above all because she gives us the Author of 
Grace. She is Mater Salvatoris. By that very fact she is 
already our Mediatrix since it is through her and her fiat 
that Jesus was given to the world as Our Savior, brother 
and victim. 

She became still more our Mother (and she was proclaimed 
such) when she became more perfectly our Co-redemptrix, 
uniting herself more intimately than anyone else to the 
sacrifice of Jesus. It is taught in the Church today that 
all that Jesus merited for us in justice, the Holy Virgin 



merited for us by a merit of fittingness (de congruo). While 
Jesus satisfied for us in justice, she satisfied in fittingness, 
and by this she became our Mother. She became our Mother 
through an act of faith superior to that which the saints 
made when they were wayfarers on this earth. 

The greatest faith that has ever existed is that of Mary. 
Our Lord, in fact, did not have faith but the Beatific Vision. 
The greatest act of faith of which Mary was capable took 
place on Calvary: she did not cease believing that Jesus 
was the Incarnate Word of God, was victorious over the 
devil and sin, and that He would conquer death. 

She became our Mother, however, not only by this act 
of faith, but also by the greatest act of hope performed on 
earth. Jesus, of course, did not have to hope, since He 
was God Himself. 

Finally, she became our Mother through the greatest 
act of love that she could make at that moment: she loved 
God to the point of offering Him her Son in the midst of 
the greatest torments. She felt in her own heart all the 
physical and moral sufferings of Our Lord in a measure 
corresponding to her love for God whom sinners offend, 
for her Son whom sin will crucify and for our souls which 
sin ruins and kills. Just as we cannot fathom the fullness 
of the Holy Virgin's charity, so we cannot appreciate the 
fullness of her suffering. As Bossuet says, " one and the 
same Cross was sufficient for her and Him since she also 
was, we could say, nailed on the Cross of her Son. Here is 
the strength of her love: for Him she suffered the same 
sufferings. " 

In her suffering, she brought us forth to the life of 
grace. It was accomplished in that painful moment when 
Our Lord said to the Holy Virgin: " Woman, behold your 
son," committing her to St. John. Since the eighth century 
the Church has taught that St. John personified all the souls 
that were to be redeemed by the sacrifice of the Cross. 
Those words of Christ were certainly not directed to 



St. John alone. They denote in St. John all the souls that 
would be redeemed by the Cross. This is their spiritual 
sense. These words, as a sacramental word, produce what 
they signify: they produce in the soul of the Virgin a 
considerable increase of charity and of maternal charity 
toward us, while they produced in St. John's soul a wholly 
filial affection, full of respect toward the Mother of God. 

From that moment the irradiation of the spiritual 
maternity of the Holy Virgin begins. This irradiation will 
not cease until the end of the world, because even after 
she ascended into heaven she continues to be our Mediatrix, 
to intercede for us and concede us all our graces. She does 
not cease to pray for us. We have a proof of this in tradi- 
tion, as in the Litany of Loreto: " Health of the Sick " 
and " Comforter of the Afflicted." All graces are therefore 
transmitted to us through her who obtains them for us. 

By the word " now " of the Hail Mary, we are seeking 
the grace of the present moment, the most necessary of 
all graces since the grace of the present moment is the 
most useful of all. When we asked for it, we may have 
been very distracted, but the Holy Virgin is not. Thus, 
when we have received it, we can be certain that it was 
through the intercession of Mary. She is the distributor 
of all graces including sacramental grace, since she often 
sends the confessor to the dying sinner so that attrition 
may be transformed into contrition. We should also ask her 
to dispose our soul for a worthy Holy Communion. 

We thus see that the influence of the Holy Virgin, far 
from impeding union with Our Lord, leads us instead to 
a more and more profound union with her Son. Conse- 
quently, without a very great union with the Holy Virgin, 
we cannot attain an intimate union with Our Lord. Among 
other things, it would be a lack of humility to slight the 
mediators that the good Lord has given us because of our 
weakness. Intimacy with the Lord in prayer will be gready 
facilitated by a frequent recourse to the Holy Virgin. 


How to Practice This Devotion 

St. Louis Grignon speaks of three levels of this devotion. 
It is not strange that he makes such distinctions for all 
the infused virtues really increase with the increase of 
charity. The first level is that of beginners; the second, 
that of those who have made some progress; and the third, 
that of the perfect. An increase arises in proportion to the 
virtue of religion and the gift of piety. 

We will speak, then, of these three levels of this 
devotion which ought to exist in all Christians and should 
increase with charity. The first level, that of beginners, 
consists in praying now and again to the Virgin, honoring 
her as the Mother of God, reciting, for example, with great 
recollection the Angelus whenever we hear it sounded. 
The second level, that of those who have made some 
progress, consists of having more perfect sentiments of 
veneration, of confidence and of love toward Mary. This 
brings one to say the Rosary every day, or at least one of the 
three parts of the Rosary, meditating on the joyful, sorrowful, 
or glorious mysteries which are for us the way to eternal 
life. He who recites the holy Rosary well belongs to a 
school of contemplation. (Our Lord manifested Himself to 
St. Theresa in the mysteries of His infancy.) If we say 
the Rosary well, Our Lord comes to us. Therefore, it is 
sufficient to fix our gaze upon Him while our lips repeat 
the song of the Hail Marys and our fingers tell the beads. 
This produces in our soul an increase of grace in proportion 
to our devotion. 

The third level of devotion to Mary, that which belongs 
to the perfect, consists in being wholly consecrated to Our 
Lord through her hands. St. Louis Grignon de Montfort 
explains very well what this means: " This devotion consists 
in giving oneself fully to Our Lord through Mary. We 
must give her ( 1 ) our body with all its senses and members, 
that she preserve it in a perfect purity; (2) our soul with 



all its potencies; (3) our present and future eternal goods; 
(4) our interior and spiritual goods which are our merits, 
our virtues, and our good works of the past, present and 
future." To understand this offering well, we must clearly 
distinguish in our good works what is incommunicable and 
what is communicable to other souls. 

What is incommunicable in our good works is merit 
properly termed de condigno. This constitutes a right in 
justice to an increase of charity and to eternal life. These 
personal merits are incommunicable. They differ from the 
merits of Our Lord in that He, being the constituted head 
of humanity, was able to merit for us in strict, rigorous 
justice. Consequently, if we offer these merits to the Holy 
Virgin, it is not for her to give them to other souls, but 
for her to preserve them and make them fruitful. Thus, if 
we should have the disgrace of losing them by mortal sin, 
she may obtain for us the grace of a fervent contrition which 
enables us to regain not only the state of grace but also the 
level of grace lost. In that way, if we have lost five talents, 
we are able to find five, and not just two or three. 

What is communicable in our good works is the merit 
of fittingness (de congruo), and in addition their value of 
satisfaction or reparation and their value of petition or 

With a merit of fittingness, founded not on justice but 
on the charity or friendship which unites us to God in jure 
amicabili, we are able to obtain graces for our neighbor. 
Thus a good Christian mother draws graces on her children 
by her virtuous fife because God considers the intentions 
and good works of this generous mother. In the same way, 
we can pray for the conversion and spiritual progress of 
our neighbor, for hardened sinners, for those in agony, and 
for the souls in purgatory. Finally, we can satisfy for others 
and expiate for them as Mary did for us at the foot of 
the Cross, thus drawing upon them the divine mercy. In 
the same way, we are able to earn indulgences for the souls 



in purgatory, to open to them the treasure of merits of 
Our Lord Jesus Christ and the saints, and thereby hasten 
their liberation. 

If we offer to Mary all our pains and tribulations, she 
will send us crosses proportionate to our strength, sustained 
by grace, to make us collaborators in the salvation of souls. 

To whom is it fitting to counsel such a consecration? 
There is no point of counseling this to those who would 
be doing it out of sentimentality or spiritual pride without 
understanding its fuller meaning. On the other hand, it is 
fitting to counsel it to persons truly pious and fervent; it 
can be counseled at the beginning for brief periods, perhaps 
in relation to the feasts of the Virgin, and then for a year. 
In this way they will be gradually pervaded by this spirit 
of abandonment, and eventually they will be able to make 
this act fruitful for their entire lives. 

Sometimes an objection is advanced. " But this means 
despoiling ourselves of what is our own and not paying 
our debts, a thing that will increase our purgatory." The 
devil made this objection to St. Bridget when she was 
disposed to making such an act. Our Lord let her understand 
that this objection derives from self-love which forgets 
the goodness of Mary: our celestial Mother does not allow 
herself to be outdone in generosity. By emptying ourselves 
in this way we receive the hundredfold. This generous act 
attests to love itself, which already obtains for us the 
remission of a part of our purgatory. 

Other persons object. " But as a result, how can we 
pray specifically for our relatives and friends if we have once 
committed for all time all our merits and prayers to Mary? " 
To this objection we must reply that the Holy Virgin knows 
our obligations in charity toward our relatives and friends, 
and when we forget to pray for them according to our 
duty, it will be precisely she who remembers them. 
Moreover, among our relatives and friends there are some 
who have a particular need of prayer. We are often ignorant 



of this, yet the Holy Virgin knows it well. Thus she is 
able, even without our awareness, to allow these souls to 
benefit from our prayer. For the other persons, meanwhile, 
we can always ask her to favor them. 

The Fruits of This Devotion 

St. Louis Grignon de Montfort affirms that this way 
of going to God is easier, and also more meritorious — and 
consequently it is a more perfect way, shorter and more 
secure. Above all it is, as he says, an easier way: " One can 
in truth attain divine union through other ways; but it 
will be with many crosses, with more profound annihilation 
of self, and with difficulties that we shall overcome with 
greater effort. It will be necessary to pass through dark 
nights, through pricking thorns and horrible deserts. On the 
other hand, through the way of Mary we advance more 
gently and calmly. There are found, it is true, great battles 
to engage in and great difficulties to overcome; but this 
good Mother comes close to her faithful in such a way that 
she enlightens them in their darkness, illumines them in 
their doubts, sustains them in their battles and difficulties. 
Indeed, this purest (virginal) way of finding Jesus Christ is 
a way of roses and honey in comparison to other ways." 

This can be observed in the lives of the saints who have 
followed this way more specifically, such as St. Ephraim, 
St. John of Damascus, St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Ber- 
nadine of Siena, St. Francis de Sales, and many others. 
We know the vision of St. Francis of Assisi. One day he 
saw his sons trying to climb up toward Our Lord on a 
red-colored ladder, set at a very steep incline; after having 
climbed several steps, they fell down. Then Our Lord 
showed St. Francis another ladder, of white color and with 
a much slighter incline, at whose top stood the Holy Virgin. 
Then He said to him: " Recommend to your sons that they 
go up on My Mother's ladder." 



It is a more facile way because the Virgin sustains us 
with her gentleness; and it is more meritorious because 
Mary obtains for us a greater charity, which is the principle 
of merit. Indeed the difficulties to overcome are certainly 
an occasion of merit; but the principle of merit is in charity, 
in love of God, with which we triumph in these very diffi- 
culties. We ought to be convinced that Mary merits more 
by her more facile acts — as by a simple prayer — than the 
martyrs with their torments, since she accomplishes these 
simple acts with a love of God that is greater than that with 
which the saints accomplish their most heroic acts. Mary's 
way, being more facile, is also more meritorious, shorter, 
more perfect, more secure. Walking an easier way, we 
advance more quickly. We advance more rapidly by submit- 
ting ourselves to the Mother of God than by confiding 
excessively in our personal prudence. Under the direction 
of her whom the Incarnate Word obeyed, one walks with 
giant steps. 

This way is also more perfect because, as through Mary 
the Word descended perfecdy to us without losing anything 
of His divinity, in the same way, by means of her the 
smallest persons can ascend perfectly to the Most High 
without fear. She purifies our good works and increases 
their value in presenting them to her Son. 

Finally, it is a more secure way because in it we are 
preserved to a great degree from the seductions of him 
who seeks to deceive us and push us imperceptibly into 
grave sin. Moreover, on this way we are better protected 
from illusions of foolish fancy and sentimentality. Indeed, 
in the interplay of causes that permit the transmission of 
divine grace, Mary exercises a salutary influence over our 
sensibility, calming and regulating it, in such a manner as 
to permit the superior part of the soul to receive more 
fruitfully the influence of Our Lord. Moreover, for our 
sensibility, Mary is in herself a most pure and most holy 
object which elevates our soul toward union with God 



She gives us a great interior liberty and sometimes she 
obtains for us immediately — when we ask her with 
insistence — a liberation from the deviations of our sensibility 
which hinder prayer and intimate union with Our Lord. 

The whole influence of Mary as a Mediatrix has as its 
purpose to conduct us to intimacy with Jesus, just as He 
Himself leads us to His Father. Fittingly we ask this 
particular assistance of Mary at Holy Communion that she 
may allow us to participate in her profound devotion and 
in her love just as if she were giving us her most pure heart 
with which to receive worthily Our Lord. And it is fitting 
to make our thanksgiving in the same manner. 

To conclude, let us repeat here the essence of our 
consecration to Jesus through the hand of Mary: 

0 eternal and uncreated wisdom, O most lovable 
and adorable Jesus, true God and true man, I thank 
you for having emptied Yourself, taking on the form 
of a slave to liberate me from the slavery of the devil. 

1 run to the intercession of Your most holy Mother 
whom You have given me as a Mediatrix, and through 
whom I hope to obtain from You contrition and pardon 
for my sins, to acquire and preserve wisdom. 

I salute you Mary Immaculate, Queen of heaven 
and earth, to whose command all that is under God 
is submitted. 

I salute you, O secure refuge of sinners, whose 
mercy fails no one; hear the desire that I have for 
divine wisdom and receive the vows and the offerings 
that my littleness presents to you. 

I, an unfaithful sinner, renew and ratify today into 
your hands the promises of my baptism: I renounce 
forever Satan, his works and his pomps, and I give 
myself entirely to Jesus Christ, Incarnate Wisdom, to 
carry behind Him my cross all the days of my life. 

And to be more faithful to Him than I have been 


up till today, I choose you, 0 Mary, for my Mother. 
I give and consecrate to you my body and my soul, my 
interior and exterior goods, and the value of my actions, 
past, present, and future. Present me to your Son, 
grant me the grace to obtain the true Wisdom of 
God and admit me, for this reason, into the number 
of those whom you love, instruct, lead, nourish and 

O faithful Virgin, make of me a perfect disciple, 
imitator of Incarnate Wisdom, Jesus Christ, your Son; 
make me attain, by your intercession and example, 
the fullness of His age on earth and the fullness of 
His glory in heaven. 


Union with God 

Shoulder My yoke and learn from Me, 
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and 
you will find rest for your souls. — Mt. 
11, 29 

We have seen what the experiential knowledge of God 
in mental prayer is, what love of God and neighbor ought 
to be as well as what ought to be our zeal for the glory of 
God and for the salvation of souls. The aim of this experien- 
tial knowledge and of this love, the end of the interior life 
here below, is union with God, a union still imperfect but 
which is the principle and pledge of perfect union that awaits 
us in heaven. This union is the repose of the soul in God, 
who is found and makes Himself always felt in this union, 
even in labors and sufferings. We will see what this union 
with God is and what the means are to attain it. 

What is This Union? 

What is this presence of God in us which permits us 
to repose in Him? First of all, it is certain that God is 
present in us as in all things which He conserves in 
existence and to which He gives motion. If the divine 
action were to cease to sustain things, they would, in 
fact, return to nothingness in the same way that darkness 
comes when the sun goes down. 

But the Lord speaks of a presence in us wholly special 
when he says: " If anyone loves Me he will keep My 



word, and My Father will love him, and we shall come to 
him and make our home with him " (Jn. 14, 23). If 
someone loves Me with a love that is not only affective 
but also effective and operative, by keeping My words in 
his heart and observing My commandments, the Father 
and I will come to him and make our abode with him, 
conversing with him as friend to friend. Indeed, it is a 
property of love that he who loves is united to the object 
loved by him {S.T. I-II, q. 28, a. 1). Love urges one to 
seek the presence of the loved one, or at least to converse 
with him in one's thoughts. According to St. Augustine, love 
is the good that unites those who love one another. They 
are present one to another with a presence that is at least 
affective, and much more intimate than the simple union 
of bodies. If such is the property of love in general, and 
even that of an inferior type of love, what will be the 
property of charity, supernatural love, or above all of 
charity that attains the summit of perfection? 

God, already present in us really and substantially, as 
He is in all things whose being He conserves, makes 
Himself present in us in a special way when His Spirit 
of Love communicates to us divine charity — a participation 
of the love that unites the divine Persons among them- 
selves. God is present in all the souls in the state of grace, 
not only as a cause united to its effect, but He abides 
there as in a spiritual temple in which He is known and 
loved. God dwells in this spiritual temple even when we 
sleep; but He is truly known and loved when the soul 
makes an act of faith and charity and when, with the gift 
of Wisdom, the Holy Spirit makes Himself felt in the soul 
as the life of its life. Every time, then, that a believing 
soul merits an increase of grace and charity by its fervor 
and generosity, the Holy Spirit becomes still more present 
in it with this presence of knowledge and love (S.T. I, 
q. 43, a. 6 ad 2). 



Under the influence of a superior light, the soul attains 
in this way a sentiment of the presence of God so vivid 
and profound that it cannot doubt this divine presence. 
Hence it now " feels " God so to speak; and this new 
experience becomes for it truly that repose of the soul of 
which Our Lord speaks. Though still remaining in the 
obscurity of faith, the soul already possesses the beginning 
of the happiness of heaven. The soul feels itself penetrated 
by God as incandescent iron is penetrated by fire, or as 
the air is penetrated by the rays of the sun. 

Although this union is never a transformation that 
absorbs the soul into God as some false mystics have 
pretended, it is true, however, that the soul feels God in its 
most intimate recesses. In a certain sense, God is more 
intimate to the soul than the soul itself, inasmuch as He 
is the interior principle of its whole inner life. This union 
which brings the gifts of the Holy Spirit urges from within 
the accomplishment of acts that the soul by itself could 
not accomplish. 

Such a constant union is realized in contemplation, and 
though the false mystics say the contrary, it cannot be 
permanent: the weakness of our nature often forces us 
to interrupt it, at least during sleep (S.T. I-II, q. 3, a. 
2 ad 4). In the more perfect souls, God manifests His 
presence more continuously: it is a question of a confused 
feeling of the presence of God and of a state of perfect 
habitual docility to all His inspirations. Uninterrupted union 
is not of this world; it is the condition of the saints in 

This union with God has many degrees, as do charity 
and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The most exalted of them 
is the spiritual marriage of which Sacred Scripture, the 
Fathers, and the great mystics speak; it is a marriage in 
comparison to which earthly marriage is only a symbol. 
Like earthly marriage, it procures three worthy objectives: 
reciprocal fidelity, indissolubility, and the posterity of good 



works. The soul that receives such a great favor, however, 
is not at all certain of its own salvation nor of being 
preserved from every fall. " It is secure only," says St. 
Theresa, " when Our Lord leads it by the hand and it 
does not offend Him." " The bride," says St. Lawrence 
Justinian, " ought to strive to be faithful and for fear of 
backsliding it ought never to believe that it has attained 
the summit of perfection." Spiritual marriage, ratified on 
earth by good works, will be consummated only in heaven, 
where the continuity and indissolubility of union will be 

Though it is less perfect, earthly union with God some- 
times surpasses that of some blessed ones in heaven: the 
apostle St. John had on earth a degree of charity and union 
with God which was more exalted than that which a baby, 
taken by death immediately after baptism, possesses in 
heaven. Even without seeing Him, the apostle St. John 
loved God in an intimate manner, just as we are able to 
love certain persons living far from us more than those we 
see every day. 

Concerning this union with God here below, one can 
have only moral certitude. As long as he lives on earth, 
unless one has a special revelation, he cannot know with 
certainty whether he is worthy of love or hate (cf. Eccles. 
9, 1). A life, however, is to be judged by its fruits, by the 
attraction the soul experiences for divine things, by the 
aversion it feels for venial sin, by its progress in humility, 
self-denial, obedience, and love of God and neighbor. 
Some very imperfect souls, basing themselves on a false 
principle of quietude, sometimes believe that they are 
in such a state. They are only in a dangerous inertia. What 
do they do, and what can they possibly do that is good, 
if they can neither merit, nor practice virtue, nor increase 
it other than by acts? To prevent every illusion, then, we 
must meditate often on the true means to obtain this union. 



Means to Obtain It 

The means for obtaining this union are that which the 
Sacred Heart teaches us: " Learn from Me, for I am 
meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for 
your souls." Our Lord is pleased to sum up in these two 
words, humility of heart and meekness, the whole Christian 
life and the whole of perfection. 

There is a very profound reason for this: humility is 
the root of all Christian virtues, and meekness is its flower. 
Certainly charity is the highest virtue, the bond of perfec- 
tion, and we ought to strive to nourish in ourselves its 
ardor, the zeal of charity. But, we must take care that our 
zeal, even though very ardent and intense, is humble and 
meek. Only then will we be saints. Humility produces in 
us an emptiness that God fills with Himself. Without 
humility the virtues are false virtues, exterior, pharisaic, 
hypocritical virtues, inspired by self-love and spiritual pride. 

At the root of all virtues there ought to be humility: 
not only that humility which is exterior and formed with 
words, but humility of the heart; not a forced humility 
that comes from delusions, displeasures or the fear of not 
succeeding, but humility of the heart, willed for the love 
of God, born of the knowledge that God alone is great, 
while we are nothing. Our Lord surely does not love 
humility that is melancholy, sad, or of bad humor, urging 
us to set ourselves apart and to remain inactive. Rather, 
He loves that humility of heart that is happy to act and 
sacrifice self for God. 

If humility is the principle of all virtues, meekness, 
according to the expression of St. Francis de Sales, is the 
flower of charity. In a plant the flower is the part most 
visible and beautiful because of the splendor and variety 
of its colors. It attracts with the perfume it releases. And 
despite its fragility and delicacy, its function is one of the 
most important in the plant because it protects and con- 



serves the fruit. The same holds true for meekness in the 
case of charity. This is what is most visible and what 
attracts and entices us most , to the practice of this great 
virtue. It is manifested in the smile, the glance, in one's 
bearing, in one's way of acting and in the choice of 
one's words; it doubles the value of service rendered. 

Like the flower, it protects the fruit of charity leading 
us to accept counsels and reproaches alike. We may have 
the most ardent zeal for our neighbor, but yet, if we are 
not meek it seems that we do not love him, and we thus 
lose the fruit of our good intentions. Moreover, it will be 
impossible to resist certain difficulties that are frequently 
encountered in the practice of charity, because it is necessary 
to love not only those who are good and are pleasing to 
us, but also those whose company is wholly other than 
pleasing, a thing that becomes impossible without meekness. 
Clearly if humility and meekness are not to be only exterior 
virtues but rather virtues of the heart, if one is to be 
humble and meek not only in temperament but in super- 
natural virtue, and if one is to be such in relation to all, 
then a complete abnegation is required, a total abandon- 
ment to Providence. 

If we wish to practice these virtues in the diverse 
circumstances of life, we must contemplate them often in 
our two great models: Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin. 
We ought to have an ardent devotion for the Blessed Virgin, 
the humble and meek Virgin Mary. The nineteenth century 
is said to be her century because of her most glorious 
apparitions and the definition of her Immaculate Concep- 
tion. The twentieth century, which opened with the conse- 
cration of the human race to the Sacred Heart, seems to be 
the century of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We should earnestly 
unite these two devotions as they will teach us the perfection 
of charity with humility and meekness. 

Humility could not belong to Our Lord other than as 
man. It cannot be a divine virtue precisely because it is the 



expression of absolute dependence and submission of the 
creature to God. Humility signifies the abasement of the 
creature before God and before what is divine in others. Yet, 
no one better understood nor more desired this dependence 
and submission of his human nature than Our Lord. It is 
precisely He, the man greatest in mind and heart, who 
wishes to be the standard, the exemplar of humility: 
" Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart." 

To make up for our pride and our rebellious wills, Our 
Lord abased Himself before His Father, accepting every kind 
of humiliation from His judges, from Pilate and from Herod. 
He voluntarily took the role of the representative of sinners, 
yet He was Sanctity itself. If we consider that sin debases 
human nature much lower than human nature itself, and 
even lower than nothingness, then no limits can describe 
the infinite self-annihilation of Christ. Comprehending the 
infinite gravity of sins which He assumed to Himself, He 
related them to the infinite grandeur of God, whose rights 
had been trampled upon and denied. 

This humility that was so profound in Our Lord was 
at the same time a humility of the heart, simple as that 
of a child. When His disciples asked Him: " Who is the 
greatest in the kingdom of heaven? " Jesus responded by 
calling a child and putting him in their midst. " I tell you 
solemnly, unless you change and become like little children 
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one 
who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest 
in the kingdom of heaven " (Mt. 18, 1-4). 

The meekness of Our Lord is wholly supernatural. It 
derives from His zeal for the salvation of souls, and, far 
from diminishing His zeal, this meekness protects its fruits 
and guarantees its influence. Isaiah had announced Christ 
as the model of meekness: " Here is my servant whom I 
uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights. 
I have endowed him with my spirit that he may bring true 
justice to the nations. He does not cry or shout aloud, or 



make his voice heard in the streets. He does not break the 
crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame. Faithfully 
he brings true justice; he will neither waver, nor be crushed 
until true justice is established on earth, for the islands are 
awaiting his law " (Isa. 42, 1-4; cf. Mt. 12, 18-21). 

To St. Peter, Jesus replies that it is necessary to pardon 
not only seven times, but seventy times seven, that is, always. 
Jesus wished to be called the Lamb who takes away the sins 
of the world by His sacrifice because the lamb is a symbol 
of meekness: when it is immolated, it utters not a sound of 
lament. In His baptism, the Holy Spirit hovered above His 
head under the form of a dove, another symbol of meekness. 

These two virtues, the germ and flower of all the others, 
are also found in their highest degree in Mary. She has 
been elevated above the angels because she is the model of 
humility. " He has looked upon His lowly handmaid. Yes, 
from this day forward all generations will call me blessed .... 
He has pulled down princes from their thrones, and exalted 
the lowly " (Lk. 1, 48 and 52). Like her divine Son, she 
is an exemplar of meekness, as we sing every day in the 
Salve Regina. 

The practice of these two virtues, united to a fervent 
daily Communion, will make charity, together with the gifts 
of the Holy Spirit and union with God, increase in us more 
every day. The sacrament of Love — the most excellent of 
all — is the sacrament of the most intimate union: it contains 
Jesus Christ in person, while the other sacraments contain 
only His supernatural power and are ordered to the Eucha- 
rist as to their end. Communion is, therefore, the most 
perfect act of the interior life, and if we prepare ourselves 
for it with humility, zeal, and meekness, we shall find there 
the most efficacious means for union with God. While our 
body receives the body of Christ, our soul is united to His 
soul, our intelligence to His light, our heart to the ever- 
burning sun of His love. Our Lord unites Himself to us 
to assimilate us to Himself, to make of us other Christs. 



Every Communion that is not sacrilegious and sterile increases 
the degree of charity in us. Who then can measure the 
effects of daily Communion, above all of fervent daily 


If in Holy Communion we learn meekness and humility 
from the divine Master, together with zeal for the glory of 
God and the salvation of souls, we will find refreshment for 
our souls according to Jesus' promise (Mt. 11, 29). We will 
find an orderly peace and tranquillity; we will realize a 
harmony of soul which, when fully subject to God, will 
receive His vivifying influence; there will be a harmony 
of body and soul, of the senses and the spirit. We will 
find peace and will be able to give it to others. 

We should learn by experience. In a moment of distur- 
bance and weariness, we ought to strive to practice humility 
and meekness; then we will notice how true the words of 
Our Lord are. We will find peace in loving. But we cannot 
obtain this peace in a stable manner without an unceasing 
war against ourselves, against the world, and against the 
devil. It is for this reason that Jesus told us that He had 
come here below to bring the sword and war. How could 
one be meek and humble of heart with everyone without 
continually suffering violence, without pardoning others 
much, and without placing oneself lower than others? 

Consequently, a war exists, but a war at the confines 
of the soul — if we can use this expression — while all within, 
the heart of the city and the fortress, is secure and remains 
tranquil, in peace and calm. " With God on our side who 
can be against us? " (Rom. 8, 31). If I love God and if I 
think that God loves me, what does all the rest matter? 
This intimate peace gives abundant compensation for all the 
sacrifices it demands, and it is for this reason that Our Lord 
adds: "You will find rest for your souls. Yes, My yoke is 
easy and My burden light " (Mt. 11, 29-30). 



The Venerable Louis Bloy has left us a picture of the 
man who has attained this union and this peace. Among 
other things, he said: " God is often more pleased to dwell 
in the heart of one of these humble ones than in many 
other hearts that are not so intimately united to Htm " 
(De adhaerendo Deo). 

Lord, give us the zeal with which Your Sacred Heart 
burns; give us also a profound humility that makes us always 
adhere to You more while we become detached from our- 
selves; give us the meekness that will make souls accept what 
we say to them for the glory of Your Father and for their 
own salvation. 

Grant us a more intimate union with your Sacred Heart 
present in the Eucharist, and guide us toward that wholly 
divine configuration that will make us Your brothers for